When Microsoft bought Nokia, it inherited a pretty large feature phone business. But that business has shrunk a lot since the purchase, according to Strategy Analytics, and Microsoft hasn’t set the smartphone world on fire either. As a result, Huawei just displaced it as the world’s third largest mobile phone vendor by shipping 30.6 million phones, nearly 50 percent more than last year. It now holds a 7 percent market share behind Apple (10 percent) and Samsung (20.5 percent). Microsoft sits in fourth place after selling 27.8 million phones, nearly half the 50.3 million devices it sold last year over the same period.
As for smartphones, Strategy Analytics said that Apple grew by 35 percent over last year with sales of 47.5 million handsets at the expense of Samsung, which dropped its own share by 7 percent. While the Korean company still sold a lot more smartphones than Apple (71.9 million), a lot of those devices are cheap and basic — which is why Samsung profits keep falling and Apple’s keep rising. Meanwhile, Huawei also moved to third place in smartphone sales, having displaced fourth-place Xiaomi over last year. Microsoft falls in the “also-ran” category, but is hoping that some of its Windows 10 mojo (and strong reviews) will soon rub off on its smartphones, too.
Source: Strategy Analytics
If you’re one of the millions of people who’ve already upgraded to Windows 10, you’ve probably noticed that the OS changed your default apps. Your main browser, for instance, suddenly became Microsoft Edge after the upgrade — something Mozilla finds “disturbing,” especially since the platform actually made it trickier to switch back to Chrome, Firefox or any other browser. In an open letter to Microsoft head honcho Satya Nadella, Mozilla’s CEO Chris Beard revealed that the non-profit got in touch with the Windows 10 team when it got wind of the change, but that “didn’t result in any meaningful progress.”
Beard wrote (emphasis ours):
…the update experience appears to have been designed to throw away the choice your customers have made about the Internet experience they want, and replace it with the Internet experience Microsoft wants them to have.
We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost.
Now, in order to switch your default browser, you’ll need to tick the check box asking if you want to make Firefox or Chrome your default the first time you launch either. Then, you’ll have to find “Web browser” in the Settings page that pops up and click the Edge icon to find alternatives in the drop-down menu. The video below can show you those steps more clearly:
We designed Windows 10 to provide a simple upgrade experience for users and a cohesive experience following the upgrade. During the upgrade, consumers have the choice to set defaults, including for web browsing. Following the upgrade, they can easily choose the default browser of their choice. As with all aspects of the product, we have designed Windows 10 as a service; if we learn from user experience that there are ways to make improvements, we will do so.
Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi is checking in with a Windows 10 status update, revealing that the OS is already on some 14 million devices. He noted that not everyone who reserved an upgrade has gotten it yet, but says the rollout will continue in phases over the next few weeks. While whether or not you can upgrade to Windows 10 may still be in question, we have information to help decide if you should with our FAQ and review. Of course, if you’re one of the millions already in the door, you can just let us know how the new experience is working so far.
Source: Blogging Windows
Have you already installed Windows 10 on your trusty slate? Well, Microsoft released its mobile productivity apps for the new shiny new version of the OS, too. Touch-friendly versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint are available for download from the Windows Store. The new version of OneNote is available as well, but it’s pre-installed on Windows 10. On top of those gesture-friendly interfaces, the apps play nice with OneDrive for easy cloud-based storage and save changes automatically so you don’t have to worry about losing any work. Of course, if you want the productivity suite on all of your desktop and mobile devices (especially when Office 2016 arrives in September), you’ll need to splurge for an Office 365 subscription.
In 18 days, Internet Explorer will turn 20 years old. But rather than celebrating with a new version, as it did for birthday number 15, Microsoft will be shoving IE away into an obscure folder with other legacy applications — you know, like Paint. Though the browser will live on, mostly for the sake of enterprise users, it will only receive security patches going forward (read: no new features or design changes). Just as important, it will no longer be the default browser in Windows. That honor now goes to Edge, a cleaner, leaner browser that makes its debut on Win 10. Microsoft hopes that with the name change, fresh design, smarter features and improved performance, Edge will be enough to convince people to set aside whatever negative impressions they may have had of Internet Explorer.
Look and feel
There’s not much to Edge’s design, and that’s a good thing. As in Chrome, there’s just one bar toward the top of the screen that doubles as the address box and search field. Nearby are self-explanatory icons for forward, back and refresh. Up in the upper-right corner, you’ll see four icons, which allow you to mark up a page (more on that later) or share a page (more on that later as well). The icon farthest to the left is where you’ll find your favorites, browsing history, downloads and your so-called Reading List, which I’ll tell you about shortly. Meanwhile, the icon all the way on the right brings up various settings, including the ability to swap out the default white theme for a black background. (I prefer the stock light one, but that’s just me.) Lastly, there are buttons just to the right of the address bar for adding favorites and entering Reading View. As with everything else here, these icons are exactly where you’d expect them to be, and even if you’re a first-time user, it should be obvious at a glance what these buttons are for.
There’s not much to Edge’s design, and that’s a good thing.
By default, the favorites bar is hidden, which goes a long way in making Edge look cleaner than any version of IE that came before it. (You can still show the favorites bar if you really want it.) Out of the box, the page you’ll see every time you launch the browser is Microsoft’s own MSN portal (can’t fault the company for promoting it), but you can easily change this in the settings so that you see a specific web page or even just a blank page. That would make Edge look even cleaner upon boot-up than it already does.
It’s worth mentioning too that in addition to having a minimal design, Edge was designed to scale well, so that regardless of the device you’re using or how you choose to resize the window, the contents of the page should scale smoothly as you move from a big window to, say, a narrow one. I generally found this to be true, especially with sites like Engadget (ahem) that were designed to be responsive. Still, there are limits: When I snapped Edge in so that it took up half the screen, some websites, like nytimes.com, were cut off, requiring me to scroll from side to side. That said, I think we can all agree that Edge is more responsive (and mobile-friendly, and touch-friendly) than the desktop version of Internet Explorer ever was.
Fun with settings
I’ve already mentioned a couple things you can do from the settings menu — change the theme, for instance — but it’s worth going over the other options at your disposal. As you might expect, there’s a way to import your favorites from another browser — a particularly handy feature for those of you who chose to do an in-place upgrade from Windows 8. What might surprise you is that even if IE was your default browser in Win 8, Edge won’t automatically import your IE favorites when it becomes the new default browser. So, you’ll have to manually import them. Ditto if your previous default browser was Chrome or Firefox or some such. Not a big deal; just FYI.
While you’ve got that right-hand menu open, you can open an InPrivate browsing session in a separate window, whereby all of your cookies and browsing history will be deleted once you close the tab. As with other browsers, Edge looks slightly different in this mode, as a way of making it easy to tell when you’re browsing in private and when you’re not. In particular, InPrivate sessions are marked by a blue box in the upper-left corner of the window, which you wouldn’t otherwise see in a normal session.
From the options menu you can also adjust the zoom level, print, Pin something to the Start menu, access developer tools, send feedback and open something with the legacy Internet Explorer browser. From the “Settings” tab, specifically, you can do things like clear your browsing data; change the default search engine; change the color scheme in Reading View; adjust the font size; show the home button; block pop-ups (they’re blocked by default); enable Do Not Track; turn off Flash, search suggestions, page prediction and SmartScreen Filter; and choose to always use caret browsing. As for privacy, you can set up Edge so that it doesn’t offer to save passwords and so that it doesn’t save form entries. Got it? Good. Have fun, tinkerers.
Microsoft’s personal assistant Cortana is an ever-present figure in Windows 10, anchoring everything from the Start menu to, yes, the Edge browser. In Edge, you won’t be able to speak voice commands to Cortana, but you’ll benefit from the same underlying technology that makes her so smart (and that allows her to personalize the experience based on your apparent interests). In particular, you can ask Cortana certain things and she’ll display answers from within the search bar, without you having to open a page. For example, you can type in unit or currency conversions, get a simple weather forecast or look up stock quotes.
All told, it’s similar to what you can do with Spotlight Search in OS X on Macs, except that Microsoft’s had less time to flesh it out, which means right now, at least, it can’t handle quite as many queries as Spotlight can. That means, while Cortana can understand all of the above kinds of searches, she won’t give you sports scores or maps. In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft later endowed Cortana with additional skills; the company has been known to make ongoing improvements to Bing (the search engine underlying it all), and I can see why details like this might not have been a priority for day one, when it was just trying to get a final and stable version of Windows 10 out the door.
Reading List and Reading View
The idea of a “reading view” is nothing new: Safari has it and even Internet Explorer features something like it. So I’d be going overboard if I acted like Microsoft was reinventing the wheel here, but still, it’s worth a closer look anyhow. The benefits of Reading View are the same as ever: that you can read your stuff at full-screen, with no distractions like advertisements and pop-ups from other apps. It’s a convenient feature, especially if you’re reading on a touchscreen device and would like to be able to move through pages in a more finger-friendly way. Most sites will support this, although a publisher does have the right to disable Reading View, ostensibly because they would rather readers see ads (ya know, assuming they haven’t already been filtered out by an ad-blocker).
The problem is that Reading View is really, surprisingly unsightly. Beautiful, fullbleed photos from Engadget and other sites sit awkwardly in the center of the screen, with weirdly spaced headlines, and all the fancy formatting stripped. No, it doesn’t stop you from reading — it gets the job done — but I’d hardly call it one of Edge’s marquee features. It looks primitive in a way that the browser itself does not. These are, I suppose, the problems Apple was hoping to avoid with its own “News” app in iOS 9, but as we’ve seen, some publications’ stories are crudely rendered there too. Maybe it’s something all the major players should be working on.
Even if you choose to ignore Reading View, as I eventually did, Microsoft has built in a better way to bookmark stories you intend to read. It’s called “Reading List,” and it lives right next to where your regular favorites folder is. The idea is that when you save a story to your favorites, it’s likely to get lost amid tons of other unrelated links. But if you save it to Reading List, you’re more likely to actually read it. Basically, it’s the same pitch as apps like Pocket or Instapaper, except it’s built into the browser, no add-ons or extensions needed. Personally, I like the idea; I find the placement (next to the favorites folder) to be intuitive and I especially appreciate how each story I’ve saved has a thumbnail to help jog my brain as to what the story was actually about.
Marking up web pages
While some of Edge’s design elements might seem like bites off other popular browsers, the markup feature feels unique to Microsoft — a company that’s become synonymous with the word “productivity.” Really, it is what it sounds like: You can write on web pages using your finger, a pen (hear that, Surface owners?) or your keyboard. From there, you can save the page to OneNote or share with a friend. When you do return to the page, you’ll see not a screenshot, but a full working page that’s frozen in time from when you wrote on it. What’s neat is that you can scroll down even below the fold, where you can see parts of the page that might not have been included in your markup.
In a private demo with reporters last week, Microsoft reps were quick to show how Markup can be used when two or more people are collaborating on something — say, making a joint shopping decision. This does indeed seem like an ideal use case. If it were just me shopping on my own, I might not bother with notes written on the screen; I might instead use Pinterest or my Favorites list or Evernote or what have you. But if I needed to run something by somebody for some reason, using Markup would be easier than taking a screenshot and emailing it with comments, and I could leave comments in a more specific way than I could with a Pinterest card.
|SunSpider v.1.0.2 (ms)*||Google Octane**||Mozilla Kraken (ms)*||JetStream 1.1**|
|Safari 8 (Yosemite)||174.27||
|Safari 9 (El Capitan, public beta 2)||125.0||
*SunSpider and Kraken: Lower numbers are better.
** Octane and JetStream: Higher numbers are better.
Regardless of what you think of IE (and even that’s much better than it used to be), Edge is a good browser. Even if you’re not the sort of power user who would have much use for Markup, the clean design and fast performance alone make it worth a try. Folks who switch between Mac and Windows machines might still prefer the versatility of Chrome, where a single login calls up all your bookmarks and settings. But for people who plan on using Windows exclusively, it’s worth making it your out-of-the-box default for a week before you go ahead and download Chrome or Firefox. You might be pleasantly surprised.
It’s a joke, couched in a bit of memetic stoner humor, but I couldn’t help myself. After all, Cortana — the digital assistant baked into Windows 10 — feels like a potent mashup of Google Now’s worldliness and Siri’s charm. Scheduling reminders? Check. Opening apps? Done. Proffering weather forecasts? You get where I’m going with this. I was almost surprised that she (sorry, “it”) didn’t humor my lousy attempt at a joke because Microsoft agonized over how to give Cortana a personality, to make it feel like more than just a talented, algorithmic guesser in the cloud. I’ve spent the last week of my life talking to Cortana, asking it harebrained questions along with proper requests, and you know what? The company succeeded, mostly.
But first, the backstory. Before it took on the name of a beloved Halo character, Microsoft’s digital assistant was called “Jarvis,” a pretty obvious nod to Tony Stark’s computer-bound companion in the Marvel Universe. The idea was to create something that actually worked like a proper assistant who would keep track of a user’s likes and personality and tried to figure out what they needed most at a given moment. Just to make sure they nailed down the whole efficacy thing, Microsoft interviewed actual personal assistants to figure out what made them good at their jobs. Now, nearly three years and a push onto Windows Phone later, Cortana is finally saying hello to users from PCs around the world and those people are starting to say hello back. For many, this will be the first time they could talk to a computer and get a meaningful response back, so… how well does it work?
To start, you can peck out questions and queries in Cortana’s search box, but man is that dull. Talking to it is infinitely more interesting, if a little hit-or-miss depending on your hardware configuration. Sometimes it seemed to work just as well with a headset as it did through my computer’s built-in mic, which is to say not always great — for every two or three shockingly well-rendered requests, there was a moment where Cortana would shrug her virtual shoulders and admit it “couldn’t help me with that.” Still, that’s not a terrible hit rate, and it should only get better over time.
Now, if you’re anything like me, the first few moments talking to Cortana will be spent pushing her limits, trying to figure out what she can answer, what she can’t and how weird you can get before she refuses to help. Maybe you’ll even turn on the “Hey Cortana” option to get its attention without having to click a button. Then you’ll start poking around in the Notebook, and that’s when Cortana’s reach really sinks in.
You see, the Notebook is where Cortana stores the tidbits it learns about you, and it’ll conduct a quick interview with you the first time you fire it up to get a sense of what you’re about. More importantly, you can pop in to edit your presumed preferences and add new ones if you don’t want to wait for Cortana to figure them out. Sifting through the options can be a little overwhelming if you’re not used to this stuff — not only can you ask it to display info cards for local restaurants, but also it’ll ask for the kind of atmosphere you dig and how far you’re willing to go. Ditto for what kind of news you like, what kind of events you like to attend and whether you drive or take public transit.
After using it — and your Windows 10 PC — for a while, Cortana will start to suss out the consumption trends that make you who you are and surface news articles and notifications it’s pretty sure you’ll need soon. These will range from reminders to leave in time for your next appointment (using Cortana on Windows Phone has given it an understanding of where I live and where the Engadget NY office is) to flight status if it knows you’ll soon be airplane-bound. Giving up the familiar embrace of Firefox or Chrome might be a tall order, but Cortana plugs into Microsoft’s Edge browser too, so it’ll occasionally surface Yelp ratings and location info for, say, a restaurant whose site you’re looking at. That sort of information is what I wanted when I visited the site in the first place, and now I don’t need to navigate some bistro’s shoddy page. Boom.
The info cards that pop up in Cortana’s search window and on the web can be terribly useful, but things can get inconsistent when you’re trying to have a conversation with it. Go ahead: Ask it how far away the moon is. Assuming you didn’t mush mouth your way through that sentence, Cortana will cheerfully fire up an info card that confirms, yes, it’s 238,000 miles away. Ask the same question about the sun, or Venus, or Mars, though, and it just opens up a web browser window with the correct Bing search results. Oh, and asking how far away Neptune was yielded an info card with three Neptune-themed diners nearby in Brooklyn. Erm, nice try?
The thing about natural language processing is that it takes so much context and power to chew on what we’re saying and respond appropriately that it’s still basically impossible for Cortana to tackle every request the way we’d like her to. When Cortana doesn’t quite know what to do with your query, it does something you’ll soon become closely familiar with — it opens a browser and searches that exact phrase on Bing. Even seemingly straightforward requests you’d think Cortana could handle, like “show me restaurants around here,” get punted out to Bing instead of getting processed to highlight results right in the search window. Cortana, you know more or less exactly where I am, and I’ve told you what kind of food I like; why can’t you figure this out for me? We’re told Cortana can handle even more complex feats — like throwing up a flag when you try scheduling a meeting at a time when you’re usually somewhere else — but it takes time to build that sort of personal awareness.
As frustrating and seemingly illogical as those situations can be, the Cortana we’ve got today won’t be the one we chat with in a few weeks or a few months. Since Cortana is so closely connected to Bing, any improvements in how Microsoft’s search and instant answers work will reflect in her behavior — long story short, Cortana is still growing. And here’s the bit you should really remember: Cortana sometimes just nails it. For me, that first “wow” moment was when I wondered aloud what the weather was like in Manhattan (disgustingly hot with a chance of rain), then asked it to remind me to buy an umbrella (success!) while I tugged on my shoes.
At the risk of sounding ridiculous, it felt like the sort of slice of life a well-paid ad exec would stick in a promotional video. I was that guy. When Cortana recognizes what you’re saying and fits all the little contextual action bits together, it feels like the future is finally being more evenly distributed. This first taste of Cortana can be surprisingly useful, and even a little thrilling, but it just makes me yearn for more and better conversations. Show us what you’ve got, Microsoft.
Filed under: Microsoft
Today on In Case You Missed It: Customers at the Netherlands ING Bank can now check their account balance by saying “my voice is my password.” A delivery company named Workhorse is testing out a parcel delivery service with drones, from a base at the tops of delivery vans. And Microsoft researchers have outlined how to record content viewable with HoloLens and a very odd assortment of characters are ready to entertain you.
The bonus video is a DIY hovercraft toy that is half 3D-printed and half Styrofoam for the mechanical failure over water its inventor has sadly, tasted before.
You’re going to see a lot of apps rushing to take advantage of Windows 10 post-launch, but one of them will be particularly important if you’re a social networking maven. Twitter has released a new app for Windows 10 right alongside Microsoft’s shiny new platform, and the client is big on discovering content even if you aren’t signed in — you’ll see the top tweets and media in the app itself, as well as on the Live Tile. This certainly isn’t the most sophisticated app (it won’t replace TweetDeck any time soon), but it does offer a lot of the in-line media playback you’d expect in 2015, such as multiple photos, Vine videos and GIF animations. Really, it’s for that moment you decide that Twitter’s website isn’t quite enough for your needs.
Source: Twitter Blog
Microsoft has made much ado about Windows 10’s support for streaming Xbox One games to your PC, but how do you actually do it? There’s a good chance that you can figure it out if you’re reading this, but Microsoft has helpfully posted a full walkthrough in case you or your friends need some help. The gist? You’ll need both an Xbox One controller and an Xbox Live account, of course, but you’ll also need to make sure that the Xbox One is set to allow game streaming in the first place. We could see that easily becoming a stumbling block if you’re rushing to get started. The guide is also a friendly reminder of what you can do once everything is working, such as voice chat (with a microphone) and controlling the Xbox One’s menus. It’s simple enough… let’s just hope that PC-to-Xbox streaming isn’t any more complex.
Source: Xbox Wire
Xbox One streaming on Windows 10 is nice and all, but how about getting the power of your PC on the console? Xbox head Phil Spencer has confirmed to the Verge that Microsoft is working on Windows 10 streaming to the Xbox One. He already hinted that such a feature would happen after tweeting that Microsoft would support mice on the Xbox One. He said that “it’s actually a little more challenging doing the encoding on the PC side to Xbox,” since PC hardware varies widely from user to user, unlike the Xbox One. He added, however, that “challenge is good.”
Spencer emphasized that Windows 10 features are an “incredibly strong” part of the Xbox One’s roadmap, and that “(gamers) want to play with their friends… on the device they want to play on.” He said getting a mouse and keyboard working on the Xbox One is a prerequisite, but it looks like that’ll happen soon. There’s no timeline on PC to Xbox One streaming, however — so I wouldn’t make any definitive plans until Microsoft officially launches the feature.
Filed under: Gaming
Source: The Verge