Microsoft Announce Windows Phone 8


Just days after the Microsoft Surface tablet event, MS held another – this time to officially announce Windows Phone 8.

There were a lot of announcements, a lot of news – some good, some bad, a lot of innovations and a lot of reasons to get a Windows Phone 8 device. I’ll try and cover them off as best I can here:

New Start Screen

The Start Screen with it’s Metro interface and Live Tiles is one of the key eye grabbers of Windows Phone and it’s being improved in Windows Phone 8 (and 7.8 but we’ll come to that later).

First up is a new, third size for tiles giving us “small, medium & large” with the new “small” size enabling users to fit more on their home screen.

Secondly, Microsoft are removing the blank strip down the right hand side of the screen (you know, with the side arrow at the top), giving users a fair bit more screen real estate to play with.

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They’re also going to be expanding the number of colours available.

NFC

Near Field Communication (NFC) is going to be integrated right into WP8, enabling payments by waving your phone at things, the ability to store card details, store cards etc and more…essentially a combination of Google Wallet & Apple Passbook with extras on top. It will also enable each pairing with a range of accessories such as, and I only discovered these today, Nokia’s NFC enabled speakers…you just touch your phone to them and BOOM – connected. These are available for Nokia’s current range of NFC enabled Symbian devices so I can only assume WP8 will be invited to the party. Another feature will be the ability to “bump” phones and transfer contact details etc…cool and useful for trade shows, impromptu meetings etc…I’m sure I’d end up using it all the time.

SD Support

Proper SD support is coming to Windows Phone 8 devices. SD cards that can be used as true removable storage…transfer music, pictures, documents and also install apps!

Windows 8 Core

This is a huge one – MS are moving away from the former Windows CE core and instead implementing the same NT Kernel as the new Windows 8 desktop OS! This means that file system, media, drivers and a lot of the security will be the same across desktop & mobile; allowing many of the features mentioned above as well as games/apps that can move between the two. That last point will make for a great user experience as well as making things much easier and more attractive for developers – which is always a good thing!

Another thing enabled by the move to the NT Kernel is multi-core processor support which will drive the next generation of WP mobile apps and games.

Internet Explorer 10

IE 10 will be on Windows Phone 8 bring the SmartScreen URL screening & phishing protection. That’s about all the news on that for now though…

VOIP Integration

VOIP is going to be “industry leading” when it comes to integration on WP8, with not just Skype but also Tango et al becoming “first class” app; giving them deep integration into things such as the People Hub and the dialler. The next crop of WP8 devices will surely (nearly) all come with front facing cameras – those 2 things combined could help to make video calling as ubiquitous as people have been predicting for years.

Enterprise Features

One of the (quite) valid criticisms levelled at WP 7/7.5 is its lack of Enterprise features; in some areas it was actually less feature rich than Windows Mobile 6.5. New business centric features WP8 will bring include:

  • On-Device Encryption
  • Device Management
  • Line Of Business (LOB) app support
  • Private market places for internal business app distribution
  • Side-Loading

Now for the bad news…

This ISN’T coming to existing Windows Phone devices. None of them. Not the Lumia 800. Not the Lumia 900. None of them.

Yes, if you’ve just upgraded to a shiny new Lumia (or other WP device) that is a bit of a rage-inducing moment but hey, there’s always Mazuma and Envirofone Open-mouthed smile

Microsoft have taken quite a brave step of angering some people to make wholesale changes that straight away move Windows Phone to the front of the mobile pack. Yes those recent adopters will be a bit annoyed but when their contracts come up for renewal again it seems likely that WP devices will be the best on market so they’ll be able to stick with it going forwards.

One thing that IS coming to current handsets is the new, improved Start Screen under the Windows Phone 7.8 update. Although it doesn’t bring the new features it does make an already great mobile OS even more aesthetically pleasing.

My Anywhere Working Tips


Anywhere Working is getting more and more attention, and rightly so.

The idea that you have to be at your desk to be productive is as Old School as hi-top fades and Adidas trainers with no laces:

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I remember seeing on Twitter that someone, I believe from L’Oreal said:

“Work is something you do, not somewhere you go”

and do you know what? I couldn’t agree more!

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I know for a fact that there are some days where I get more done working from home than the office. Despite people’s homes being full of gadgets, they are almost always less distracting that a building full of people.

People asking questions, people falling over*, people knocking drinks over their keyboard*, people dragging you into ad-hoc meetings, people falling upstairs*, people saying that Spurs will beat United just loud enough that you HAVE to get involved and set them straight… there’s none of that in my house!

(*I say “people” it’s pretty much just 1 person here who does all that!)

So now that we all agree that it’s awesome and should be implemented immediately, what tips are there for making it a success? Funny you should ask Smile

1) Make sure you know your login details.

Sounds simple but the number of people I’ve heard of who’ve tried to work remotely only to realise they can’t get into their VPN, is actually quite big!

2) Make sure you’ve got your RSA dongle.

We get a lot of vendors in here working with our sales teams and they all log on to their vpn, for emails etc. and many use RSA dongles for 2-factor authentication. On more than one occasion, people have forgotten their dongle and had get back in the car, drive back to the office/home and pick it up. This can often mean 4 hours of driving for no reason at all!

3) Use Cloud Storage

Making sure you can access your data wherever you are is super important. I like to use SkyDrive / SharePoint Online to make sure that all my documents, notes, pricefiles etc. are easily available wherever I choose to work. There are SO many to choose from (Google/DropBox etc.) that there’s bound to be one that works for you.

4) Power

Make sure you’ve got access to a plug. These days when I travel by train, my number 1 mission is to get a seat with a free plug. Even if my device has got full battery and it’s a short journey, I still do it – just in case. Between using 3G, sending email, twitter, listening to music/podcasts etc. batteries have a LOT to contend with so here’s the mantra you should always repeat:

I MUST RE-CHARGE, I MUST GET A SOCKET

5) Food

If you’re at home, make sure the fridge* is full as it sucks if there’s nothing to eat. Another benefit of home working is being able to “graze” throughout the day and not have the big lunchtime rush…so makes sure you’ve got pepperamis/carrots/whatever you like and you’ll be sorted.

*image <—Not this Fridge!

6) Family

If you’re going to be at home, make sure they understand that you’re still actually working! For kids especially this can be hard for them to believe but I do believe that’s why Starbucks was invented Winking smile

7) Windows Phone

I’ve got a Nokia Lumia 800 and I find that Windows Phone is far and away the best smartphone OS for Anywhere Working.

I’ve got Exchange, Hotmail, Office 365 accounts all on there. I’ve got Office…that’s right OFFICE! Onenote syncs with my desktop at work keeping everything neat and tidy, Sharepoint hooked up to Sharepoint Online giving me access to all those documents, that are shared with colleagues for collaboration, nice and easily. Plus Excel & PowerPoint!

I find that I can do the vast majority of my Anywhere Working tasks just from my mobile – which is amazing and very 21st century Smile 

So all in all, make sure you’re prepared with passwords, batteries, dongles and food and you’ll be all sorted Winking smile

Skype for WIndows Phone available


Microsoft’s 2011 $8.5 billion purchase of Skype has borne fruit in the guise of the beta “Skype for Windows Phone” app, with the final version expected to arrive in April.

Skype have tested and certified the app on the following devices:

• Nokia Lumia 710
• Nokia Lumia 800
• HTC Titan
• HTC Radar
• Samsung Focus S
• Samsung Focus Flash

From the Skype Blog:

“With Skype for Windows Phone Beta you can make free audio and video calls** to your Skype contacts over 3G and 4G or WiFi***, make affordable calls to landlines and mobiles using Skype Credit, create and hold one-to-one and group chats, and update your profile and account information, among others features.”

One thing to note is that the beta app will have only English language support.

Head over to http://blogs.skype.com/en/2012/02/skype_brings_voice_and_video_c.html to read more and to get the links to download the app…or hit this QR code using Bing Vision Smile

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Lync Mobile & Office 365


Lync Mobile is out for Windows Phone and other platforms right now. If you can’t find it in the marketplace on WP, hit this link:

Download Lync 2010 for Windows

I’ve been using Lync for a few months now and LOVE it, it makes connecting with people at partners so much easier. I use Lync Online via Office 365 (as I also love the cloud) and was very keen to get this all hooked up.

I downloaded the app this morning but couldn’t get it working at all so I turned to my greatest friend in times if tech support need, Twitter. Lo & behold, the ever awesome @bibbleq came through and I was up & running within 5 or so minutes!

All the info I’d seen online concerned adding CNAME records to DNS servers but, as it’s in the cloud, I didn’t have access to that…so I was a bit stuck. Turns out that MS just need to update the DNS at their end but if, like me, you’re impatient to get start then follow @Bibbleq’s advice:

Add

https://meet.lync.com/Autodiscover/autodiscoverservice.svc/Root

as the “External Discovery address” and you’ll be all sorted.

Head over to his blog for more details on the above:

http://www.bibble-it.com/2011/12/12/office-365-basic-plans-quick-config-for-lync-mobile

and also a deeper look at Lync for WP7:

http://www.bibble-it.com/2011/12/12/overview-of-lync-mobile-for-windows-phone-7

Nokia & Microsoft Office 365


I today received an email from Nokia telling me that the “1st Nokia Partner Network Event” is imminent on the 23rd November 2011 at The National Space Centre, Leicester

I’ve never been aware of Nokia particularly having partners of the sort that would have events like this…as their business isn’t really the same as Microsoft, Adobe, SAP, HP etc., so it surprised me a little.

There are 3 breakouts:

  • Retailers/Online
  • B2B Dealer
  • IT Reseller

and it’s the 3rd one that caught my eye due to the first 2 sessions:

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So not only are Nokia making a huge play in the consumer arena with Windows Phone 7, it seems they’re going to start introducing their devices into the corporate space, by playing on some of the enhancements found within the recent Mango update. That update brought full support for Microsoft’s Office 365, their cloud based Exchange/Lync/Sharepoint offering, allowing WP users full access to Sharepoint lists and document libraries.

I’m keen to see where Nokia’s involvement with Office 365 takes them, us as partners and Microsoft too. That said I don’t think I’ll be able to attend the event…anyone out there planning on going that can take notes for me? Smile

Nokia Windows Phones – Marketing


Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 has been getting stronger recently with the awesome Mango (v7.5) update and it’s 500 new features, new adverts and now, what may well be it’s biggest shot in the arm…Nokia.

Much was made of the news earlier this year that Nokia were to start making Windows Phone devices, that Microsoft had given them 1 Billion dollars, this that and the other…and many wondered if it was really going to make any difference.

Well the answer seems to be a resounding…YES!

Following on from the Nokia World (Weds 26/10/11) announcements of the Lumia 710 & 800, there has been a flurry of activity. Nokia have given a Lumia 800 device to all the finalists on the X-Factor…while this isn’t my favourite show (far from it!) it is HUGELY popular with teenagers and young adults…I guess 13-30 overall…which clearly covers a big focus demographic for Microsoft. If Kitty, Johnny, Misha B (<—check me out Smile) et al are extolling the virtues of WP7 then surely that will translate into sales for Microsoft & Nokia.

Hand in hand with that though, is making sure that people can find the devices to test out and ultimately buy. This is something that many of the OEM’s have been quite poor at arranging…but not Nokia:

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Picture courtesy of Oliver Haslam (@theiBlog) via Twitter via Tom Warren (@tomwarren)

That’s a photo of the Nokia device already at Point of Sale in a Phones4U store here in the UK – good work Nokia!

Windows Phone 7.5 Xbox Controller


Windows Phone just keeps getting better and making itself more important to Microsoft’s ecosystem, as well as introducing itself to new potential users. Today brings the announcement of another great addition:

The Xbox Companion App

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This is a Windows Phone app that will allow you to Find, Learn & Control media on your Xbox console directly from your Windows Phone device!!!

The app isn’t yet available but Ben over on the Windows Team blog has had a play with the beta and gives us some great insight:

  • Finding Content: Just like on your Xbox, the Xbox Companion gives you instant access to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace catalog of games, movies, music and TV shows. I used it to search “Featured Content” and pulled up the X-Men: First Class.
  • Learn more about what you’re watching, listening to, or playing: Once I found the movie and touched the movie tile, the Xbox companion app took me to an info page that has all the related details about. And the content is really rich, too – for example, when I swiped to the “cast” page and touched an actor’s name, like star James McAvoy, I was taken to other movies starring him. From there, I could easily learn more about the other movies, their cast, etc. It’s an infinite road of interactive content.
  • Control & Play: Once I selected the content and hit play, the Xbox Companion flips into “controller mode” in which I could navigate my Xbox, or control video playback of your video. The best part here is that controls are virtually instantaneous – easily as fast as using my controller or a TV remote.

This is going to be pretty amazing in so many ways. It will make interacting with the Xbox much easier and also quite futuristic – which is always good! This coupled with the just announced Xbox TV is going to cause a radical shift in the way that people view the Xbox 360 console…no longer just for gaming but a true centrepiece of the living room, a real multimedia hub for the home.

The only reason I have EVER looked on enviously at a PS3 is for the LOVEfilm streaming and now we’ve got that, plus a whole bunch of other services so a real stake in the heart for Sony!

The other side to this is this will surely get the millions of Xbox users looking at Windows Phone devices in a whole new light too. Maybe it doesn’t have a few of the apps you’re used to on your iPhone…BUT IT CONTROLS YOUR XBOX!!! Smile