Good news for Microsoft (MSFT): Launching Windows Phone 8 seems to be helping the company create a real mobile app ecosystem. Todd Brix, the senior director of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Apps Team, announced on Twitter over the weekend that his company had seen a “100%+ increase in WP developer app revenues & downloads since WP8 launch in November.” Needless to say, this claim doesn’t mean too much without actual numbers to go with it since Windows Phone had such a low adoption rate before Microsoft’s grand Windows Phone 8 launch this fall. All the same, Microsoft must be happy that its efforts are leading to an increase in revenues for its developers, which could certainly lead to increased interest in developing for the platform.
While Nintendo (NTDOY) has chosen to create second-screen experiences with the new Wii U GamePad, Microsoft’s (MSFT) strategy for the Xbox 360 involves bringing your own devices (BYOD) with the Xbox SmartGlass app for Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. One of the more frustrating things initially about the Xbox SmartGlass app was that it wasn’t natively compatible with 7-inch Android tablets such as Google’s (GOOG) excellent Nexus 7, but Microsoft’s gone ahead and updated the app to take advantage of 7-inch Android tablets while squashing a batch of bugs at the same time. While still in its infancy, Xbox SmartGlass is a glimpse at the future of smartphones and tablet and how they connect to the TV.
Motorola and Microsoft (MSFT) are the two latest technology companies currently embedded in a high-stakes patent litigation battle. The trial, which is taking place in a federal courtroom in Seattle, concerns licensing fees for patents considered essential to implementing wireless industry standards. The hearing will determine how much the wholly-owned Google (GOOG) subsidiary can reasonably charge Microsoft for use of its patents in the company’s Xbox gaming system, Windows software and other products. Motorola on Tuesday asked the court to consider new and future Microsoft products, such as the Surface tablet and a possible Microsoft-branded smartphone, that implement its patented technology regarding 802.11 Wi-Fi connectivity and H.264 video technologies, according to Geek Wire.
While Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) and a variety of other vendors may be interested in smaller tablets, Microsoft (MSFT) is taking a different approach to the market. Tami Reller, corporate vice president and CFO of Microsoft’s Windows Group, confirmed to Wired that the software giant has no plans to offer a 7-inch Windows 8 tablet. The company has high hopes for it’s latest operating system, previously revealing that a record 1.24 bilion hours of extensive public testing was conducted on the platform. In fact, of the 1,000 certified Windows 8 devices ready to ship, all are “10.1 inches and above”, according to Reller. Microsoft’s decision to avoid the growing smaller tablet market is puzzling, although the company seems confident in its decision to go solely with the high-end market.
With three days to go until Microsoft’s (MSFT) Surface tablet officially launches on October 26th, WPcentral is reporting that customers have already started receiving confirmation emails that their tablets have been shipped. There hasn’t been this much anticipation for a piece of Microsoft hardware since the Xbox 360 was released in 2005. Pricing aside, consumers seem genuinely excited for the Surface as suggested by the sold out preorders. The Surface is Microsoft’s first attempt at breaking the iPad’s tablet market dominance and will be available for $499 for a 32GB model. The magnetic Touch Cover keyboard can be purchased for an extra $100.
Get excited, Master Chief fans. Microsoft (MSFT) has put out a new live-action teaser film for Halo 4 that honestly makes you wonder whether you’re watching a video game trailer of a trailer for a summer blockbuster movie. And there’s a good reason for that: Oscar-nominated director David Fincher, best known for directing The Social Network and Fight Club, produced it. The two-minute movie features flashbacks of Halo protagonist Master Chief growing up as a child and eventually transforming into a galaxy-saving super soldier. Microsoft’s Halo 4 trailer follows below.
To little surprise, Android has not only remained the most popular smartphone operating system in the United States by a wide margin, but Google’s (GOOG) platform continues to see impressive growth in an over-saturated market. In a three-month study ending in August 2012, research firm comScore found that Android was on more than half of all smartphones in the U.S., increasing from 50.1% in May to 52.6%.
Microsoft (MSFT) is reportedly well aware that pricing its entry-level Windows RT tablet at $199 will push its vendor partners out of the market, but it might launch the device at that remarkably low price point anyway. Citing multiple unnamed sources from notebook vendors, Digitimes on Thursday reported that Microsoft’s hardware partners are very worried about the possibility of a $199 Surface tablet. Unless Microsoft only sells the device in the United States, partners including ASUS (2357), Lenovo (0992), Samsung (005930) and Dell (DELL) may stop developing Windows RT tablets since they will not be able to compete at that price.
Microsoft (MSFT) previously announced that its third major Windows Phone release would be coming this fall, though the Redmond-based company did not give specific dates. According to a source speaking to ZDNet, however, the software giant will release the RTM build of Windows Phone 8 in September and new devices will launch this November, just in time for the holiday season. The publication also notes that Microsoft’s Office 2013 productivity suite is scheduled to be available in February of 2013. Earlier this week, Microsoft revealed that its Windows 8 operating system, which is designed for both personal computers and tablets, is scheduled to launch on October 26th.
Bloomberg reports that the first generation of Microsoft’s Surface tablets will only support Wi-Fi connectivity to start, and won’t be able to connect with carriers’ proprietary 4G networks. But as Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi notes in the Bloomberg story, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing since many people are happy having only Wi-Fi connectivity on their laptops and tablets, and are also wary of having an LTE-connected tablet that could subject them to overage fees if they exceed their monthly limits. What’s more, the Wi-Fi-only iPad is cheaper than its counterpart that has both LTE and Wi-Fi, so it’s not as though Microsoft is missing out on big carrier subsidies by forsaking LTE for the time being.
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