services

We recently received reports that Microsoft would be slashing the costs of their Windows licensees by up to 70% in an effort to take on competitors in the lower end and tablet markets including Google’s Chrome OS and Apple’s iOS. The Redmond based company may take it a step further though, according to reports released today, Microsoft could be experimenting with a free version of Windows 8 and an alternative way of bringing in consumers.

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Microsoft purchased its first email service, Hotmail, almost seventeen years ago from founders Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith. After a $400 million, exchange and effort to move the service from a Linux based operating system to Windows 2000 – MSN Hotmail, as we knew it was born.

Now in the year 2014, a year after Outlook.com took over the reins and stepped down from its “preview” state to replace MSN Hotmail – Microsoft is ready to celebrate and look back at what the product has brought to consumers around the globe. Moreover, do not have any doubts, Microsoft considers Outlook.com as “the best email choice for people around the world” and the service’s 420 million active users helps to support that claim.

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Microsoft today announced plans for reorganisation. We've previously touched on rumours and speculation that CEO Steve Ballmer was looking to restructure the company into one that focuses on devices and services. Ballmer fired out a letter to Microsoft employees, detailing what was happening and what the outlook is for Microsoft once these changes have been applied.

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In case you've managed to miss this (as we did), Microsoft has set up a new YouTube channel. This new platform will enable the company to publish and feature videos that cover Microsoft gadgets. Including news and reviews, there's also the "solve" category, which is essentially a collection of helpful tutorials on how to get the most out of the experience.

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is working on restructuring the giant software company, according to a report over on AllThingsD. This shuffling could see several current executives hold more prominent roles. Sources familiar with plans note that the restructuring will focus on solidifying Microsoft into the "devices and services company" that Ballmer previously wrote about in his annual shareholder letter.

We've already witnessed the company slowly move into hardware with its Surface family of Windows 8 tablets, as well as services that include Office 365, and Skype among others. It certainly makes sense for Microsoft to adapt to the demands of today's consumer. Reports note that while plans are being drafted, changes could well change drastically.

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Good news for those who have been waiting and anticipating the arrival of Dropbox for Windows 8, it is now available. The popular cloud storage and sharing service has built a reputation as one of the more ubiquitous ways that folks like to share files and so its arrival on Windows 8 as a metro app is significant for the new platform.

The app is available to download for free and will work on both Windows 8 and Windows RT machines allowing you to download and share files at will.

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Nokia have firmly established themselves as a major player in the Windows Phone market. Their devices have been consistently regarded well and their marketing efforts have seen them establish ‘Lumia’ as a powerful and recognisable brand in its own right.

With the advent of Windows Phone 8 we saw Nokia strive to produce the definitive ‘hero’ device of this generation. The Lumia 920 packs some serious specs and for some it’s seen to be the best device of this current crop of phones. It isn’t all about the speeds and feeds, it’s about a cohesive package consisting of exclusive apps, hardware and of course Windows Phone 8.

We've previously reviewed the Lumia 920, which is well worth checking out for the in-depth analysis, but it is from this perspective I’m going to look at how successful it really is.

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As Windows Phone users, we are blessed with a handsome, dare we say it, world class cloud storage service slotted right in, SkyDrive.

SkyDrive is baked into Windows Phone, allowing all sorts of wonderful uses, uploading the camera roll automatically, storing your OneNote files or just storing good old Office documents. The team at SkyDrive have been opeing up the service and encouraging developers to take advantage of the space with new applications and services. IFTTT is just such an application and it might well be exactly what you’re looking for.

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As we move ever closer to the launch of Windows 8 we also near the relaunch of Microsoft’s music services. All traces of Zune branding are being replaced with the upcoming Xbox Music.

On trying to go to www.zune.net we now get a re-direct to Xbox.com to be told that Zune Music is now Xbox Music. We’re going to miss that crazy pink and white website but it's had its time.

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Yesterday we saw a whole heap of information presented by Nokia covering hardware and services, with so much to get through some things were only touched upon. One such area was of Nokia’s plans for maps and directions. We’d previously covered Nokia’s goal to maintain leadership in location so this segment was of great interest.

During the keynote a much clearer insight into their plans for their location based apps coming in Windows Phone 8 was provided, and we think there will be some exciting advances heading to the platform. Indoor Maps, tighter integration of their current mapping apps and augmented reality improvements are all on the way.

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Zune services to be split, re-named [Rumor]

As the title says, file this under rumor...but one that may be detailed this Tuesday, the 24th.

According to @MS_Nerd, who has an interesting history with leaks from within Microsoft, the Zune services as we know them will be broken apart, presumably in response to the Nokia deal, which is making some of the backend redundant:

"Wee little rumor seeping out now: Zune next to be split into Xbox mobile, Xbox Live & Windows Live Zune on the 24th."

"And the Zune backend platform will become a "Nokia services on Azure" offering, with content from Netflix, Last.fm & Hulu among others."

If true, this comes a little more than 2-years after the first Zune team was broken up into hardware and software services, with the former being absorbed under the Windows Mobile group. Now it's the latter which is being divvied and presumably gobbled up by other divisions within the company.

There's been talk for awhile now of "Zune re-branding" and something happening within that division, so this isn't too far fetched. We'll see what happens, if anything, this Tuesday.

Source: @MS_Nerd 1, 2; Thanks, Amir, for the heads up

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Review: Windows Live for Windows Phone

One of the things that have made Google’s Android platform such a strong player in the mobile space is the simple fact that Google has so many popular services. Google’s ability to tightly integrate these services into the Android experience is one of the things that is so appealing. Microsoft may have the numbers, but Google has everything neatly and seamlessly on Android, where Windows Mobile does not.

Think about it. Where Google has Google Search, Gmail and Google Talk; Microsoft has Bing, Hotmail/Live Mail, and Messenger. Though the similarities between the two giants are well documented, the way that they have approached the integration of their services into their mobile platforms couldn’t be more different. While Google makes use of their services bordering on mandatory (you have to have an account to even use an Android device), Microsoft has chosen to take a much more low key approach through Windows Live for Windows Phone.

Windows Live for Windows Phone hasn’t received much face time; but is worth a quick look, which is waiting on the other side of the break.

Pros: 
Provides Push Email without needing Exchange. Supports Messenger chat. Free.
Cons: 
Not enough support for Windows Live services. Bland appearance.
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After the pre-emptive "unveiling" of the My Phone Dashwire-alike syncing service yesterday, Microsoft has gone ahead and copped to the entire thing in a statement:

Today, Microsoft’s My Phone Web site went live prior to its scheduled debut. However, we are excited about the new Microsoft My Phone service, which will be available as a limited, invite-only beta. This is a significant milestone for Microsoft as it connects the phone to the PC and Web, making mobility a key pillar for the company’s software+services strategy.

This new Microsoft cloud service syncs critical information (e.g., contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, text messages, photos, video, etc) on a user’s mobile phone to  a password protected Web site.  Once synchronized, people can easily back-up and restore mobile phone data.  My Phone provides an easy to use Web portal where people can access and manage content on the phone, and share that information with others.

My Phone helps people:

  • Keep their information backed up if they lose or break their phones.

  • Transition information if they switch to new phones.

  • Access the same information from their phone or PC.

  • Additional  information about the service can be found here:  www.windowsmobile.com/myphone

We will have more details about My Phone and the limited invite only beta at Mobile World Congress.

Sounds good to us -- and it also sounds like Microsoft is starting to get serious about this whole services thing.  Although we're interested in this whole My Phone service, we do wonder how it fits in to the larger Live Services strategy. As for the details and who's getting an invite to the beta, we'll be waiting until MWC for that.

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