I love voice control. Let's just get that out there right from the start. I may be a writer, meaning that I am at my best when conveying my thoughts through the written word and not on the spot talking; but, I am also a lazy man, and I like to be able to get things done with the minimal amount of interaction with my computing devices. As such, I can't help but wonder: why can't Google Now, Siri, and Cortana offer full voice control?
As we covered in Part 2, Windows Phone is expected to take a big jump with its feature set when version 8.1 hits. When you combine that with the reportedly aggressive licensing fees and expected expansion into more emerging markets, and there are good reasons to expect that Windows Phone can continue growing its market share in 2014. Although, without some incredible hardware and marketing, it's hard to tell exactly if continued growth will be enough to really allow Windows Phone to cement its place as one of the leaders of the mobile ecosystem.
As we covered in Part 1, 2013 wasn't as big a year for Windows as you might have thought. The software didn't see much change aside from a couple minor updates; the hardware saw some impressive moves, but users didn't pick up too much; and, overall, Windows Phone was the "fastest" growing platform in the world, but growing fast is easier when you don't have much market share to begin with. Still, Windows Phone has momentum, it has the backing of Microsoft and its deep pockets, and it has the backing of Nokia's hardware. So, while Windows Phone has a long way to go, it's hard to count it out in this race. And, Microsoft does have plans to fix at least some of the issues stated above, and a lot of those fixes are planned to be part of Windows Phone 8.1, which we'll get to in a bit.
We've already covered the top two biggest mobile platforms in the world in our State of the Platform series. We've looked at what 2013 held and what to expect in 2014 from both Android and iOS. Now, it's time to take a look at the fastest growing platform on the market, and the platform that has the best chance of becoming the final pillar in the modern mobile triumvirate: Windows. Although, it should be noted that there is quite a long road ahead for Microsoft's platform to reach that state.
We have been hearing some rumors here and there about what to expect in the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 update, but ever since Microsoft released the SDK for the update, the rumors surrounding the update have positively exploded. We have been posting a couple articles every day with new information that has been gleaned from the SDK or other sources, so it is time to do a rumor roundup to make it easier to sort through what we know so far about Windows Phone 8.1. Of course, this article will be updated (and has already needed updating as it was written because the news doesn't stop when it comes to Windows Phone 8.1.
Evleaks has been going pretty hot and heavy with the Nokia Normandy leaks these days; and, many of the images are looking like press renders, which usually indicates that the device is close to announcement if not release. The thing is that the more we see the Normandy images, the more we can't really tell if the device is running Android (as has been rumored) or if it is running Asha.
The rumors since we first heard about the Nokia Normandy were that it was the first device planned from Nokia to be running a fork of Android, and that very well may be true. It is hard to imagine that Microsoft would allow Nokia to release an Android device, since it is in the process of purchasing the Nokia Devices and Services division to be its hardware arm for Windows Phone. But, given what we're seeing in these images, if the Normandy is running an Android fork, we have some serious concerns about the future of Nokia's Asha software.
As we look to 2014, it is a good time to take a look at how far Windows Phone has come. Android is undoubtedly the king of the mobile market, and iOS is still strong as ever, but Windows Phone has been continually making gains and proving itself as a proper third pillar in the mobile world. Microsoft and more specifically Joe Belfiore have made some bold statements about the platform, and how it is going to close the "app gap" in 2014.
There had been some people hoping that Bill Gates might make a comeback and take over the Microsoft CEO position with current CEO Steve Ballmer announcing plans to retire. That seems to have been nothing more than blind optimism, but that's not to say that Bill Gates won't be playing a major role in choosing the next Microsoft CEO, and word has it that the selection could happen sooner rather than later.
When we first saw this headline, we had two thoughts in quick succession: 1) Of course someone has a patent on squares and rectangles that deliver information to users!, and 2) Why wasn't this lawsuit filed against Microsoft when Windows Phone 7 was released? Regardless of the answers to both of those questions, we've got ourselves just one more example of how the US patent system is completely borked.
The patent infringement lawsuit comes from SurfCast, an OS development company based in Portland, which owns a patent granted in 2004 pertaining to a “System and method for simultaneous display of multiple information sources.” How's that for an overly broad patent title? Just from that title alone, it would sound like SurfCast could sue over just about anything from Google News to Hootsuite. Of course, the patent itself isn't quite as broad, but still not great. It details a GUI that ”organizes content from a variety of information sources into grid of tiles each of which can refresh its content independently of the others.”
We knew when Microsoft held its developer preview of Windows Phone 8 that there had to be new features in the update that the company wasn't announcing at the time, and we were definitely right. During the developer preview, Microsoft detailed important features like the new "
" of Windows Phone and Windows 8, the
on the homescreen, as well as the improvements brought with
. So rather than rehash all of that, we want to just give a run-through of the new features, including: People Hub Rooms, Xbox Music, and more. Let's start with the big stuff.
Yesterday brought the launch of Windows 8 as well as the official launch of a number of Windows RT tablets. We went to a local Microsoft Store to check out the new devices, and were surprised at some of the information being given out by store employees. By far, the worst bit of misinformation was that one employee told us that Windows RT is "nearly identical" to Windows 8.
Much like CES and MWC have become parades for new Android devices, IFA has been the show for new Windows 8 tablets, and tablet/laptop hybrids. And, the question must be asked: With the wave of Windows 8 about to crest, can the iPad survive? The scene seems to be pretty similar to history that we've seen a couple times with Apple over the years. First, Apple was the king of PCs, then Microsoft took over by numbers. Then, the iPhone was the king of smartphones, until Google's Android army spread out. Now, the iPad is the king of tablets, but Windows 8 is looming large on the horizon.
This is a story that has been filtering out across the web for a couple days now, but there have been conflicting reports. We've sorted through, and here's what we expect to come in September with regard to Windows Phone 8. There are really two stories that have been reported: that Microsoft and Nokia will be unveiling Windows Phone 8 and launch devices in September, or that
No doubt you've all seen the coverage of yesterday's presentation by Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 has been previewed, showing off the new capabilities for developers, and a little bit of what to expect as an end user, and it was all pretty impressive, with some features that we expected, some that we only hoped for, and a couple that genuinely surprised us. But, more than anything, it reinforced our idea that Windows Phone will become a major player in the smartphone ecosystem.
Over the last month or so, we have gone through what to expect if you make the decision to switch from Android to Windows Phone. We have covered
, and options if you want to keep your Google services. Now, it’s time for some final thoughts.
Obviously, the most diehard Android fans would never consider this switch, but this series hasn’t been written for those people. This series has been for those who may like Android, but not love it, or for those who are flat out frustrated with the variations in UI and slow updates that are core characteristics of the Android ecosystem. Maybe you are looking for a change, you want a full-featured smartphone, but you don’t want to jump on a sinking ship like BlackBerry, and the Apple world isn’t your style. If you live in America, Symbian and bada aren’t options, so that just leaves Windows Phone, which is a platform many don’t consider, but it does offer a quality experience that covers the needs of the majority of users.
The idea of switching from Android to Windows Phone may not be one that many people would consider, but it’s an idea that we thought would be good to explore. We’ve already covered our
from the perspective of a long time Android user, and the features that may be missing. Then we also covered the
that you’ll come across in a switch to Windows Phone, and now it’s time to get into what many advanced users see as the make or break part of a mobile ecosystem: the 3rd party apps and app store. And, in keeping with the spirit of users possibly switching from Android, we’ll also get into how you can transfer or access certain Google services that you may not want to leave behind.
We've already covered the overall impressions of what you may experience should you decide to make
, and now it's time to deal with the meat of the smartphone experience: the apps, including the stock apps, the Marketplace, and Google services you may not want to leave behind. Just as a quick recap, we talked about general impressions and some specific features you may miss in a move from Android to Windows Phone, and the overall impression was quite positive. If apps are the meat of a mobile platform, the UI is the flavor, and Windows Phone tastes good. It's a much more unified and well designed system than Android 2.x, which still dominates the market. Android 4.0 comes a long way, but as we mentioned, ICS is technically the 7th major iteration of Android, while Windows Phone 7.5 is really just the 2nd major iteration of the platform, so WP has something of a headstart in that respect.
Making a change or choosing a new mobile platform can be a big step. Our mobile devices are more and more important in our daily lives, so the choice we make for our hardware and software dictates a lot of how we interact on a daily basis. iOS has become more closely tied with Twitter, not to mention its integration with iCloud and other Apple devices/products. Android, not surprisingly, is closely integrated with Google's products like Google+, Docs, Gmail, Maps, etc. Windows Phone is integrated with Micrsoft's Windows Live, and Bing, but also with Facebook to a larger degree. Often, we let the software we use dictate the platform we choose. However, in an effort to understand all aspects of the mobile ecosystem, it can be a useful test to try something new and give it a real workout, and not rely on just a short time or a platform's design philosophy to form an opinion.
Nokia is certainly not the first manufacturer to announce a set of exclusive apps on a platform, and it most definitely won't be the last one, but it could very well be the most damaging example we've seen yet. Most manufacturers will say that exclusive apps are a way to differentiate devices in the market, and we all know that Windows Phone manufacturers are looking for as many ways to differentiate as possible. As yet, Microsoft is not allowing any type of skinning or UI differentiation, so built-in apps are the only option right now.
When we started this journey, the framing for the articles seemed clear enough: the rumor mill around tech devices is absurd and "analysts" can get away with murder by simply stating what any reasonably educated fan would already know. Then, we realized that we are reasonably educated fans, and we have a forum in which to say all the things that we already know. So, we decided to create the "'Predictions' that need to stop in 2012" series.