Tuesday, 21 July 2015
Monday, 20 July 2015
Microsoft promised this May that it was bringing Cortana to iOS and Android, confirming rumors from earlier in the year. The Android version leaked today—there's an APK floating around—and Microsoft has opened up an invitation-only beta to let people test the company's digital personal assistant for themselves, at least if they live in the US or China. To sign up to the beta you'll need one of a handful of recent Android handsets, and a Microsoft account that's linked to the Windows Insider program. In promoting its cross-platform software ambitions, Microsoft has said that its experiences will be mobile, following people from device to device, but best on Windows. The idea here is that Windows 10 users will use and depend on Cortana on their PCs, and hence will want her to be available on their phones, no matter which smartphone platform they use. On Windows and Windows Phone/Windows Mobile, Cortana can in principle be more deeply integrated—enabling, for example, "Hey Cortana" voice-based activation—but on Android and iOS she'll be "just" an app and accordingly constrained. That may be the principle, but for now, at least, Cortana on Android seems to be pretty close to Cortana in Windows 10, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 Mobile. Install the app and she asks for a ton of permissions, including the ability to send and read SMS messages, place calls, access contacts, calendars, and accounts, and more besides. Start her app and she looks near identical to her Windows 10 PC incarnation, and functionality seems to be very similar across Android, Windows 10, Windows Phone, and Windows 10 Mobile. Her core knowledge and configuration continues to be driven by the "Notebook," and she can give alerts and information about the same kinds of things: weather, places to eat, traffic conditions, warning you it's time to leave for an appointment, and so on and so forth. The range of capabilities can be extended by Microsoft at any time, as the majority of what Cortana does happens in the cloud, with Bing.
Similarly, her voice recognition is performed in the cloud, and performed as well as we've come to expect from her other platforms. Transcription quality is decent, and will only improve as more people start using her. There are a few gaps; she doesn't appear to be able to read e-mails, and so won't pick up things like package tracking numbers or flight info. She also can't listen for music. For the time being, at least, these features remain unique to Microsoft's platform. Likewise, the "Quiet Hours" functionality, during which incoming calls and messages are muted when busy or asleep, and the corresponding "Inner Circle" feature, which allows some calls to break through even during Quiet Hours, are only found on Microsoft's phone platform. Cortana on Android is also just an app, and lacks the kind of integration that Microsoft is experimenting with elsewhere. The Edge browser in Windows 10, for example, includes some Cortana functionality, with the digital assistant recognizing things like restaurant websites and offering additional information about them, and this has no equivalent on Android. While I've seen some complaints that she crashes a lot, I didn't have any issues like that on a Nexus 5 with Android 5.1. Even with these gaps, the result is, well, Cortana on Android. Everything appears to sync correctly with other platforms, and so she does more or less achieve the goal of providing a cross-platform experience. It's difficult to know which of the functional gaps are due to her beta status, and which are likely to be filled out as Microsoft improves her, but as things stand, Microsoft has achieved its "better on Windows" objective. Assessing the value of Cortana on Android remains trickier. For someone using Android and the broader Google ecosystem, the built-in Google Now is better integrated and more capable. If Cortana on Windows 10 turns out to be an important part of your daily life, the continuity that comes of sticking with Cortana may be valuable, but even that isn't immediately obvious; with Google Now providing direct equivalents to some Cortana features, and with others (such as appointments) being synced by your calendar anyway, many may find that the best experience comes from using both intelligent agents on their respective platforms; use Cortana when using your PC, but switch to Google Now on your phone. With most of Cortana's content delivered through the Web, it's not too surprising...
Saturday, 18 July 2015
Friday, 17 July 2015
The country's largest cable TV provider is working with video game maker Electronic Arts. For now, the service is free for people who pay for both Comcast TV and Internet. Customers may have to pay once a test phase ends after at least a few weeks.
Games available include FIFA Soccer, NBA Jam and Monopoly.
Comcast says the service is aimed at casual players, including people who play on phones, rather than hard-core gamers who already use consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation. The games through Comcast don't let you play online with friends or strangers, as many games allow on consoles today. You can play by yourself or with people sitting in the room with you, using smartphones or tablets as controllers.
Comcast wants to position its set-top box, the X1, as an entertainment hub. The box can stream music from Pandora and display photos from Facebook, Instagram and Flickr on a TV. Only about 5 million of Comcast's 22.4 million video customers have X1, but the company says it expects most customers will get it by the end of 2016. Customers who don't have the X1 box yet can request it.
You can sign up for the games at http://www.xfinity.com/xfinitygames.
— Tali Arbel, AP Technology Writer
Microsoft has a streaming music service, too — though it was mostly overlooked as attention turned to Apple's entry into a business crowded with Spotify, Google Play and others.
Maybe that's why Microsoft is revamping the service formerly known as Xbox Music. It's now called Groove.
Along with the new name, Microsoft promises redesigned menus and other new features when it releases Groove with Microsoft's new Windows 10 operating system later this month.
The company said it's dropping the Xbox name to avoid confusion, as the service is no longer focused on Xbox gaming consoles. Instead, the new Groove can be used to manage music files on any PC or mobile device running Windows 10.
Like the Xbox Music service, Groove will also offer unlimited streaming from Microsoft's music catalog for $10 a month. It will work on Android and Apple mobile devices as well as Mac and Windows PCs.
As with Apple and Google, Microsoft also offers the option to upload songs you own to the Internet, through Microsoft's OneDrive storage service, for playback on other devices.
Meanwhile, Apple says it's honing its Apple Music service as more people weigh in with suggestions and complaints. The company plans to restore "Home Sharing," or the ability to stream music from a computer running iTunes to other Apple devices over Wi-Fi. Home Sharing was disabled on iPhones and iPads with the iOS 8.4 software update that enables Apple Music.
— Brandon Bailey, AP Technology Writer
HBO's stand-alone Internet service, HBO Now, is available on Android and Amazon devices starting Thursday.
The online video service had been limited to Apple device owners and customers of the New York-area cable company Cablevision. Google announced plans for Android earlier, but hadn't disclosed a launch date.
If you download the HBO Now app on an Android tablet or phone or on an Amazon Fire tablet, you get a 30-day free trial. Afterward, it costs $15 a month.
Microsoft is preparing for one of its most critical Windows updates in its history, theWindows 10 release that will be available as a free download to consumers who already own genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8 copies. Beginning on July 29th, the update will be rolled out gradually, with Windows 10 retail boxes supposed to reach retailers at some point after that. But Microsoft is also working on new hardware for Windows 10, and a report already shares some exciting details for the next-gen Surface tablet.
Likely to be called Surface Pro 4, the next Windows flagship is supposedly launching this October. At least that’s what sources from the supply chain told Taiwanese tech news site Digitimes.
The Surface Pro 4 will feature “the same ultra-thin form factor, bezel size and large-size display as the predecessor model,” the website says.
However, the new Surface tablet will feature Intel’s new Skylake processor, and might pack Samsung SSD drives of up to 256GB. Other details have not been provided yet, and it’s not known how much the new Surface Pro 4 will cost.
According to the sources, the new Surface might help Microsoft increase monthly tablet shipments to 500,000-600,000 units from the current 300,000 monthly units.
Microsoft confirmed a few days ago that it plans to unveil new Windows 10 hardware at the upcoming IFA 2015 show in Berlin, Germany, without specifying anything about mobile devices. However, the company has an event titled Windows 10 Lights up New Devices for September 4th at the German trade show.
The new Surface Pro model – if it’s going to be unveiled in September – won’t be the only new tablet/laptop running Windows 10 out of the box. According to the company, “a breadth of new Windows 10 devices, including tablets, 2-in-1s, premium notebooks, gaming devices and all-in-ones” are about to be unveiled.
Microsoft Edge is blazing fast!
Windows 10 App Development
Office on Windows 10
We’re getting close!
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