Apple Has Siri, And Microsoft Is About To Get Cortana

Microsoft has been in a state of “shut up and ship” with Windows Phone for more than a year now. While the company has released a few minor updates to Windows Phone 8, its feature set hasn’t changed significantly from when Microsoft first introduced the mobile OS in October 2012. The software giant refuses to discuss or acknowledge an upcoming update, Windows Phone 8.1, but a recent software development kit leak has highlighted the huge number of feature changes that will arrive in the coming months and put Windows Phone more on par with iOS and Android. One of the main feature additions is Cortana, a personal digital assistant named after Microsoft’s Halo game series.

Cortana first emerged after a Microsoft employee lost a phone running Windows Phone 8.1 last year. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Windows Phone work have revealed to The Verge that Cortana will replace the built-in Bing search feature, which is currently launched through a dedicated hardware key, and acts as a digital assistant with a mix of Siri and Google Now functionality. We’re told that Cortana will take the form of a circular animated icon with the hue of your selected Windows Phone accent color, and will have a personality not dissimilar from Apple’s Siri. Cortana will animate when it’s speaking or thinking, and bounce around or frown with “emotion” depending on the queries involved. Cortana will be backed by data from services like Bing, Foursquare, and others to give it some of the contextual power of Google Now.

Central to Microsoft’s vision for Cortana is a Notebook feature that will allow Windows Phone users to control exactly what information is shared with the digital assistant. Notebook will allow the Cortana digital assistant to access information such as location data, behaviors, personal information, reminders, and contact information. We’re told it’s designed as a privacy feature to ensure Cortana doesn’t freely access information without a level of user control. While Cortana will learn things about users, it won’t store them in the Notebook without asking you, and any information that’s stored can be edited or deleted. Cortana will then use this information to provide answers to search queries by voice or text, and provide suggestions, alerts, and reminders. Cortana could greet you by name and ask if you need help or answer questions, much like Siri.

Through search queries and just general phone usage, Cortana will learn more about a user and offer to store personal data like home and work locations and general interests in its Notebook. Cortana will also react to messages or emails that contain phrases like “let’s meet tomorrow at 8PM” and ask if you’d like to set up reminders or calendar entries. Cortana can also provide guidance on weather, stocks, directions, appointments, and music that’s contextual based on location and other data. As Cortana is a digital assistant, it will also be able to manage a do-not-disturb feature, similar to iOS, that’s designed to mute notifications. An “inner circle” of contacts will allow Cortana to manage notifications and phone calls during “quiet hours” when notifications are muted.

Although the initial Cortana digital assistant that will ship in Windows Phone 8.1 will have a lot of capabilities, Microsoft will need to extend it to third-party apps and its Windows and Xbox devices to improve its functionality in the future. The real test of Cortana will be how well it works with voice commands and its ability to understand natural phrases and questions. Microsoft’s recent voice work with Xbox One is impressive, but it also requires that you follow a strict pattern of commands for it to work successfully. Microsoft will have to ensure Cortana is at least as good as Siri for the company to position this as a full personal digital assistant.

Source: http://malaysiandigest.com/technology/489213-apple-has-siri-and-microsoft-is-about-to-get-cortana.html

ZX Spectrum hits Kickstarter target

The ZX Spectrum will hit UK shelves in the near future after the Kickstarter campaign started to fund its return hit its target.

The company announced that it had hit the target of £60,000 late last night.

Elite Systems floated the idea of bringing backing the games console as a Bluetooth accessory for iOSAndroid and Windows Phone after it acquired the rights to its back catalogue last year.

The company said that if it managed to raise the funds need, it would launch the keyboard for iOS, followed by Android and Windows Phone.

According to Elite, the company hopes to have the first batch of keyboards on sale by September. It has said they will be priced around £39.99.

Sourcehttp://www.t3.com/news/zx-spectrum-hits-kickstarter-target

Nokia pins recovery hopes on advanced camera smartphone

Nokia on Thursday introduced a new smartphone, the Lumia 1020, with a powerful 41-megapixel camera in its latest bid to catch up with rivals Samsung Electronics Co Ltd and Apple Inc.

Tech bloggers responded enthusiastically, saying the camera quality was the highest in the market. But analysts questioned whether it was enough to help Nokia, suffering a fall in cash reserves after years of poor sales, survive.

“The hardware’s a beauty on this thing,” said tech website Engadget after CEO Stephen Elop demonstrated features including “floating lens” technology that adjusts for camera shake and six lenses that help produce sharper images.

The Finnish mobile phone maker is pinning its hopes for a comeback in smartphones on Microsoft Corp‘s Windows Phone – an operating system that is struggling to compete with Google’s popular Android system.

While regular mobile phones still account for the bulk of its shipments, smartphones are viewed as crucial for its long-term survival because of their higher margins and increasing demand for web access from mobile phones.

Jo Harlow, Nokia’s executive vice president in charge of smart devices, said the growing popularity of photo and video sharing meant more consumers will want better cameras.

“Taking pictures is in the top three things people do with a smartphone. It’s a relevant feature to be focused on,” she told Reuters. “To stand out you have to differentiate.”

The new Lumia’s 41-megapixel count far exceeds those of the iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, at 8 and 16 megapixels respectively. It is also higher than some compact cameras, although higher megapixels do not necessarily mean better photos as factors such as lens quality also affect the end result.

“The imaging capabilities here are extraordinary,” said Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart.

But he added: “It’s still a Windows Phone … if somebody is looking for applications they’re still going to look at iPhone.”

Sourcehttp://news.yahoo.com/nokia-unveils-lumia-smartphone-41-megapixel-camera-152002963.html

Mozilla’s Firefox OS debuts on first smartphone

The Mozilla Firefox OS has set foot into the smartphone industry, launching on its first handset today and offering a challenge to the budget sector currently dominated by Android.

The ZTE Open has a mere 3.5 inch screen, a 1GHz single-core processor and 256MB of RAM with the entirely reasonable price of €39 (£33).

Mozilla claims it isn’t trying to take over the top-end of the market but instead wants to go after the still-expanding market of customers looking for their first smartphone.

As a package customers will in fact pay €69 as the phone comes bundled with €30 pay-as-you-go credit and 4GB storage card. One alternative is to pick the phone up on a 24 month contract with Telefónica for a piddling €2.38 per month

Additional features include a 3.2-megapixel camera and support for Wi-Fi and A-GPS. But the ZTE Open is most noteworthy for using Mozilla’s HTML-based Firefox OS. It supports the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Nokia’s Here maps but still has a long way to go to make any kind of impact against Android, iOS or Windows Phone.

Firefox may have made a smart move in opting for the emerging market to start with, but it will need to get apps on board sharpish in order to win over users.

Source: http://www.t3.com/news/mozillas-firefox-os-debuts-on-first-smartphone

Unity announces support for Microsoft’s Xbox One and Windows Phone

GAME ENGINE DEVELOPER Unity has announced that it will support Microsoft’s Xbox One and Windows Phone.

Unity has become one of the main game engines for developers wanting to make games on mobile devices, with the firm having a significant presence at the Game Developer Conference two months ago. Now the firm has announced a partnership with Microsoft that will see it support the firm’s upcoming Xbox One games console along with the Windows Phone mobile operating system.

Unity CEO David Helgason said that the firm’s Windows Store Pro publishing add-on will be free when it is released. This means that developers who already have a Unity Pro 4 licence can port games to the Windows Store and Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system without having to pay an additional licence fee, a cost that is probably being subsidised at least in part by Microsoft, which is becoming more desperate to attract developers to its Windows Phone mobile operating system.

Helgason said, “We also announced that we’re collaborating with Microsoft to develop tools for the Xbox One entertainment system, including support for many next-generation features like enhanced Kinect gestures and recognition, multiplayer matchmaking, Smartglass and cloud stuff.

“Oh, and developers who build games published by Microsoft Studios get the tools for both Xbox 360 and Xbox One free of charge.”

For Microsoft, Unity’s support is key if it wants developers to start taking its Windows Phone mobile operating system seriously. Unity’s support for Xbox One is not much of a surprise, because after all there are only three games consoles and game developers will want to work on an engine that supports most if not all of the consoles in order to keep costs down.

Sourcehttp://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2278339/unity-announces-support-for-microsofts-xbox-one-and-windows-phone

Microsoft to bring ‘Age of Empires’ to Apple Inc., Android phones

Microsoft Corp will offer its popular “Age of Empires” game for Apple Inc.’s iPhone and other smartphones through a tie-up with Japan’s KLab Inc, seeking to capture growth in a booming mobile game market.

Microsoft’s gaming business is dependent primarily on its Xbox franchise but mobile devices have been eating into the gaming industry, luring consumers away from traditional consoles.

While the tech giant has released a few mobile games for iOS and Android like Wordament, “Age of Empires” is its most popular game to date to be offered beyond its own consoles.

The strategy is one that analysts argue other game machine makers such as Mario Brothers creator Nintendo Co Ltd could consider in a bid to leverage their software assets.

KLab will develop a mobile version of “Age of Empires” which will be released before the end of March, a KLab spokesperson said.

Shares in KLab were overwhelmed by a glut of buy orders in Tokyo trade on Tuesday, with its price indicated at 972 yen, 18 percent higher than its last close.

Contrary to an earlier report, the agreement is only to develop a mobile version of “Age of Empires” and there were no announcements on other titles, the two companies said.

The historical strategy game will be released worldwide in English for iPhones and Andriod-based phones, “with plans to release the game in other languages and on a Windows Phone in the future,” a Microsoft spokesperson said.

Sourcehttp://www.indianexpress.com/news/microsoft-to-bring–age-of-empires–to-apple-inc.-android-phones/1133510/