Editorials

Yesterday was an important day for Microsoft. With the announcement of the Surface Pro 3, Redmond is continuing to show that they’re in this for the long-haul and perhaps more importantly, they’re actively improving upon their previous work. A Surface Mini was not revealed as expected, but it sounds like for good reason, including the possibility of it contradicting the “one device to rule them all” message.

Sitting in the same room with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Stephen Elop and the who’s who in tech media, it was fascinating to watch Panos Panay – the corporate vice president for Surface Computing at Microsoft – take the stage and sell us on the idea of the Surface Pro 3. Soon after the now familiar promo ad for the device, the audience cheered and enthusiastically clapped. It was an odd thing because it felt genuine; people were seriously excited about this announcement.

Fast forward 24 hours and most of the ‘new tech high’ has worn off, and a few of us who have the Surface Pro 3 are digging deep into this new creation. Being sold on the idea is one thing, but using it and actually liking it is another. While it’s much too early for a review, here are some of my first thoughts on the Surface Pro 3 and Microsoft’s chances of success with it.

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Earlier today, eBay issued a press release letting users know that a cyberattack "compromised a database containing encrypted passwords and other non-financial data." Users will be asked to change their passwords just in case, though they noted that eBay "has seen no indication of increased fraudulent account activity." This is sadly just one of many attacks recently, and something that won't be going away anytime soon, if ever.

Attacks like this are nothing new, over the years plenty of big-name sites have become victim to similar cyberattacks. Retial chain Target has been all over the news lately, and there's also vulnerabilities like the recent Heartbleed Bug that affected Google, Facebook, Yahoo and dozens of other sites.

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Ever since Steve Ballmer stepped down to make room for Satya Nadella as the new CEO of Microsoft, the company has been loudly talking about its mobile first, cloud first strategy and the Internet of Things (IoT).

I think this change in how Microsoft talks about itself makes sense. After all, the desktop and notebook markets are not growth businesses anymore, and Microsoft is actually shrinking here as Windows loses market share to Apple and now Chrome OS. Google is making great strides pushing into the enterprise with Chromebooks and Chrome OS desktop boxes. I think the days of Microsoft dominating the desktop computer space are numbered.

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Yesterday Microsoft broke my heart and the hearts of early Xbox One adopters around the world. In case you missed it, Microsoft announced a Kinect-less version of the Xbox One will be offered for $399. That’s $100 cheaper than the current Xbox One SKU. That Xbox One sans Kinect will be available on June 9th in all regions where the Xbox One is already available. That bright future of the Kinect with the Xbox One that Microsoft promised last summer is now dead.

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Net neutrality is worth fighting for

Tell the FCC to enforce net neutrality

We tend not to branch out into the political discussion here at Mobile Nations all that often. Politics has little bearing on the day-to-day use of mobile devices. But on occasion, things from the political world cross into our little world of smartphones and tablets. Take SOPA back in 2012, for example. Meant to address the real problem of content piracy, SOPA overreached and the reaction of the American people was enough to kill the bill while still in committee.

We're facing another intersection of politics and technology today, and it's time that we the people made our voices heard. Net neutrality is the issue of the day, and the way that governments move on this issue will have far-reaching consequences for decades to come.

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Normally, I’m a pretty big advocate of WhatsApp. After KIK unceremoniously abandoned Windows Phone in 2012, WhatsApp rose up to take its place. Sure, the app had issues on occasion, but the development team was busy pumping out updates so often it became a running joke (remember update Fridays?).

Lately, things are slipping. For instance, the public version of the app hasn’t had an update since January. That’s almost four months ago. Granted, WhasApp beta users have been receiving updates nearly every other day, but even that does not guarantee a steady or working app. New features have not been added in weeks, just occasionally moving around of elements resulting in a game of ‘what’s changed?’ each time a new version is released (changelogs don’t exist, evidently).

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Following Microsoft's Q3 FY2014 earnings report from last night I thought we should take a look at the big picture behind the numbers and address some of the key themes from the company's analyst conference call (which you can find here)

Let's have a quick look at the numbers for Q3. Revenue was $20.4 billion, gross profit was $14.5 billion and operating income was $7.0 billion. While adjusted revenue grew 8%, earnings per share (which came in at $0.68) grew slightly less at 5%.

Clearly Microsoft is not in any kind of financial trouble. I say this despite not exactly being a Microsoft fan. I own and use exactly zero of their products so I'm simply looking at the business as a technology investor here. Microsoft is growing slowly. No, they're not even growing as fast as Apple and they certainly are not growing anywhere close to as fast as deeply mobile companies like Facebook. But they're growing and are on very strong financial footing.

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Changelogs. They’re the list of reasons why we want to update an app or game. It’s the simplest thing that some app creators often ignore. It’s baffling. Version 1.2 of your app is out? Great, umm, why do I care unless you tell me?

Granted, in Windows Phone 8.0, and earlier there was no real region for a proper list of changes, resulting in some developers creating pop-up screens detailing the fixes upon first launch, or a separate area under ‘About’ where they can detail their continuing hard work, or even jamming it under the app description in the Store. It wasn’t ideal, but people definitely appreciated the effort.

But developers, you no longer have such an excuse with Windows Phone 8.1. And we hope you notice.

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Despite the fact Windows Phone 8.1 has been garnering some fantastic reviews from both tech pundits and the masses, it’s not all roses and ponies. I was reminded of this last night when playing with the Xbox Music app that comes with 8.1.

On the surface, the app looks decent. It’s a continuation of the new app structure started late last year by Microsoft, which replaces the ‘built in’ Music + Video hubs of the past. Microsoft is changing the architecture so that the Windows Phone Team can quickly add new features and fix bugs, all without an OS update.

But let’s not mince words: the music experience on Windows Phone 8.1 is subpar, and it has become worse since 8.0.  In fact, it sits with a pathetic 2.5 stars (out of 5) on the Store, which is awful for a Microsoft app.

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For those in the US whom also have Windows Phone 8.1 installed, Cortana is probably one of your most frequented new features on your phone. If you’re outside the US, you’ll have to wait a little longer for Microsoft to localize your language (unless you follow our simple tutorial).

When sharing images of my 8.1 screen, a lot of people have asked me why I pin Cortana as a wide Tile. After all, I could just hit the dedicated Search key (Tip: you can long press the Search key on the Lock screen to call up Cortana). On the surface, it’s seems like a simple question, but I’ll explain why if you have Cortana, making her a permanent Tile on your screen may be a good idea.

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Mobile Nations Community Update, April 2014

It’s time for another edition of the Mobile Nations Community Update! As usual, things around Android Central, CrackBerry, iMore, Smartwatch Fans and Windows Phone Central have been busy.

The past month has been a mix of new devices, financial analysis, conference coverage, and site planning. The HTC One M8 has been announced, BlackBerry held their Q4 financial results conference call, Rene and iMore hit up (and did a fabulous job) covering Macworld|iWorld 2014, and Windows Phone Central is in the middle of Microsoft Build 2014 conference coverage as we speak.

You may have also noticed the unveiling of the Mobile Nations Newsroom, put together to provide you with a better experience. We’re excited about it, and hope you enjoy the benefits it will provide: in addition to enhanced news coverage, expect to see a lot more original content.

Let’s get down to it. I have some exciting ‘hints’ to share regarding future developments on Smartwatch Fans… keep reading to learn more!

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Sorry, there is no Nokia 'Lumia 1820'

With Microsoft’s Build 2014 just right around the corner, it looks like I have to squash some rumors floating around. The latest is “confirmation” of a Lumia 1820.

The first report of a Lumia 1820 came from a non-reputable Twitter source, who promised it would feature a hilariously spec’d “3GB RAM 5.2 inch QHD screen and Snapdragon 805” along with a Lytro camera. I said back before Mobile World Congress that it was nonsense, as many were “predicting” it would be announced at that Nokia event. It was not.

Now, the unicorn phone has returned.

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“I think everybody’s happy with free-to-play for now.” That's Kyu Lee, founder of Gamevil, a veteran mobile game developer with more than a decade of experience. They’ve been churning out freemium games — free to download and play, but full of in-app purchases — at a solid clip for years now, resulting in plenty of players and a well-known RPG series.

Will Stallwood, founder of Cipher Prime, is on the other side of the fence, saying, “Having a paywall is almost disgraceful.” Cipher Prime has been carefully crafting paid games since 2008. The music is amazing. The gameplay is varied and polished. The graphics are beautiful. You won’t find ads or purchase prompts anywhere. Playing any of their titles is a pure experience.

On the one side are established developers that are casting a wide net and trying to maintain user loyalty. On the other you find a group of independents trying to maintain the experiential integrity of a game, and leaving players alone once they’ve paid up. Which one is doing it right?

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In doing this job, there’s the easy news – apps, device reviews, leaks – and then there’s the hard news, like criticizing Microsoft, leaking too much or talking about illegal apps. Today’s story falls into the latter category, but it’s more about the aftermath.

Long story short, a developer named Al Gihuni released a free app called ‘Free Market’. The app did something unique: it allowed you to find an app listed in a different region, perhaps at a lower price. The idea here is that some developers price their apps differently based on the market, or sometimes they run regional sales. ‘Free Market’ though took advantage of that by letting users find those price differences with a few clicks and the app tagline – “Download paid apps for free!” – was quite inflammatory.

Developers were not pleased, to say the least.

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Like a lot of people who are always connected, knowing what is happening in the world at this moment is a priority for me. Sure, I can load up an RSS news feed and pull down some published news stories, but what about the breaking stuff, the things happening right now? The internet is a powerfully fast tool for delivering information. Having a steady stream of breaking bulletins is the logical end of that technology, and Breaking News is that service.

Breaking News (www.breakingnews.com) is owned by NBC News Digital, though it operates as a separate entity. What makes it unique though is it’s not just a stream of “stuff” coming in that you have to make sense of. Nor do you have to configure anything. Instead, there are a team editors who curate, fact check and maintain the feed, making sure only scrutinized content gets through.

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My Nokia Lumia 1520 is the perfect size device and everything else is just too small. Picking up a Lumia 1020 feels ridiculous and borrowing a friend’s Apple iPhone 5S to make a call feels like a joke. As the smartphone market evolves, I am no longer the only person to find a love for the “extra-large” phone. In a world where a 3.5” display was once gorgeous, 4.5” is the new standard and 5.5” is the future.

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Downloading apps from the Windows Phone Store can open up a whole new world of possibilities. No, that wasn’t a sales pitch for the app team. It’s a truly great way to experience some exciting content made by developers from around the world. Some apps and games are free, while others are commercially licensed, requiring a purchase.

I’ve rounded up some of my top paid apps for you to try out, should you not have them installed already. While this may be a small collection, they’re apps I rely on a daily basis.

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So, you want to adopt BYOD?

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is the current hot trend. (And has been for a while, really.) There are many perceived advantages for a company that allows employees to bring their own devices to work and have access to your company resources, but is BYOD right for you? Can you make mistakes when developing your BYOD policies? Can you really let any device connect to your resources?

Lets look at a few top issues that you should be aware of.

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Popular mobile games often take a long time to arrive on Windows Phone - if they ever make the trip at all. Last year I wrote an editorial explaining the delay in porting games to Windows Phone and the market situations that make such delays inevitable. To make a long story short, bringing games from iOS and Android to Windows Phone at the same time as the lead version often doesn’t make financial sense for the publisher… Not that we have to like it.

In fact, one of our dedicated readers doesn’t care to wait-and-see whether popular games like Candy Crush Saga will make it to Windows Phone at all. Tjecco been running a forum thread dedicated to contacting mobile developers about support for Microsoft’s mobile OS for a while now. With the help of other fine readers, he continues to reach out to developers and update the thread with their responses. Find out which developers have recently confirmed Windows Phone support (and what you can do to help) after the break!

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