I made another appearance on this weeks episode of GeekWire Radio here in Seattle, Washington, keeping my streak alive as the person with the most guest appearances in GeekWire Radio history! In this episode, which also features Eyewitness News reporter Essex Porter (pictured with me above, and a huge Windows Phone advocate), we talk about a couple of recent Gear Live stories, including:
- iPhone 6 4.7-inch design preview
- iPhone 6 5.5-inch design preview
- Exclusive: I used the Microsoft Surface watch
I brought in the two iPhone 6 mockups in both 4.7- and 5.5-inch varieties, which made for some good conversation. We also chat about the news of the week, which included the release of the Amazon Fire Phone, and we also had a discussion about what Microsoft needs to do to make Windows Phone more accepted by the general consumer. You can listen to the show now by grabbing the MP3 below, or hitting play in the widget.
Read More | GeekWire Radio (MP3)
Curious about how Cortana made her way from assisting Master Chief in Halo over to helping you out on Windows Phone? During a sit-down with Microsoft's Marcus Ash, he spoke to us about what it took to get Cortana just right on Windows Phone and to be seen as a legitimate competitor to Apple's Siri.
First, the Cortana logo was the first thing Microsoft has to get right. Originally, they didn't want a physical representation. The thought was that people could think it was creepy if it is "too human." They also didn't want it to be like Clippy, the infamous character from Microsoft Office that was hated by many. It was also decided that Cortana couldn't be just a voice, since it wouldn't feel the same.
Initially, Microsoft tried to use the Xbox Live avatar idea, but that was odd due to everyone having the female Cortana voice. Then they started playing around with the circle. A circle can stretch, bounce, and transform. They also tried triangles, diamonds, hearts, and the ability of letter the user choose any of these. At the end of the day, the circle next to Metro on the start screen looked good, so that was what Microsoft decided on. The next issue was that a simple circle isn't iconic, and is hard to brand. That's when the Windows Phone team met with the Halo team at 343 Industries.
One of the more exciting aspects of Windows Phone 8.1 is the appearance of Cortana, a Siri-like voice-based personal assistant. We spent time talking to Microsoft's Marcus Ash about Cortana, and we asked him about the possibility of Cortana making its way over to other smartphone platforms like iOS and Android. After all, the demo we were given was impressive. According to Marcus, at first it'll be a focus that is part of Windows Phone, and that's the number one priority with Cortana.
To extend Cortana across the entire smartphone ecosystem, that's the part that Microsoft is still mulling over and figuring out. The question is "How do we get Android or iOS users that also use Windows to have a great Cortana experience?" As a company, Microsoft is putting work into solving the question, and it isn't afraid to put its apps on competing platforms. After all, there's Office on Android and iOS, Bing, and others. For our money, it makes a lot more sense for Microsoft to release Cortana across multiple ecosystems rather than tying the service down as a Windows Phone exclusive. It's not the kind of feature that sells phones (similarly, we don't think that Siri on its own sells iPhones, either.) As a cloud-powered service, is Cortana a Windows play or a service play? Time will tell.
Chris Weber is the CVP of Mobile Devices Sales at Microsoft, re-joining the company through it's purchase of Nokia, where he was in charge of global sales. He knows his way around every Lumia device, and is now aiming to make sure that Windows Phone first-party hardware is an even player at the devices table. We were able to sit down with Chris to talk about Nokia, Lumia, Windows Phone, and what changes need to be made in order to realize the success he is seeking. Check out the full interview below:
When is Windows Phone 8.1 coming out?
The answer varies by device and operator. The Lumia 630 and 635 are the first 8.1 products, launched internationally. We’re also working with our current products, and any Windows 8 phone is upgradeable to 8.1. There is currently a developer preview, but the operator version requires further testing. 8.1 is a completely different experience. Things like the background wallpaper, increased customization, and especially Cortana, which is one of the best features.
There are key differences between Cortana and similar services on other devices. It proactively learns. The other day I was flying to Moscow. The week before, it asked if it wanted me to track my flight to Moscow. There is a link that says "Do you want to know how I knew that?" Cortana looked at my calendar and started looking up flight numbers. It also has geo-fencing. You can say "Remind me that Ignacio owes me $100." I can say remind me when I send an email, when I arrive home, etc. Or "Remind me to pick up my dry cleaning" and when you get in the area, the message pops up. "Remind me to pick up milk at the grocery store” and you get the choice of having it remind you when you are near any grocery store, not just one specific one.
Back to being on the plane, I said "Remind me to download the music for guitar when I get home." It's really, really good. Flow writing, which is similar to Swype, means I can do emails faster on my phone than on the keyboard now. I got a new phone and it wasn't running 8.1 and the hunt and peck was tough!
Microsoft has an ambitious new idea to set themselves apart from Android and iOS. They want to install their video game motion sensor technology in an upcoming Windows Phone. Tom Warren of The Verge says that Microsoft insiders have slipped him some elusive information on the new phone.
The goal is to eliminate as many buttons and screen swipes as possible from the new phone. It should be able to answer a call simply by holding it up to your ear and end a call when it is dropped into a pocket. Place it on the table to put it on speaker, wave a hand in front of the screen to dismiss alerts, and push buttons without touching the phone, these are the feats that Warren says the phone will be capable of.
The 3D features, as they are being called, are not unique to Microsoft. Amazon is purportedly going to reveal a similar device June 18th. Eliminating screen smudges is cool, but I am not certain if I would be willing to buy a whole new phone to do it though. Given that the Kinect didn't sell consoles on its own merit, I am skeptical if it will do so in the even more competitive smartphone market.
Still, if the 3D sensor allows me a full size keyboard without taking up any real space, it might just be worth a glance.
We open up the Nokia Lumia 1520 Windows Phone in this episode. The Lumia 1520 sports a large 6-inch ClearBlack display and is an AT&T exclusive. Here are the specs:
- 2.2 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor
- 6-inch ClearBlack LCD display (1920 x 1080)
- 20-megapixel PureView rear camera
- Dual LED flash
- Wireless charging
You can pick up the Nokia Lumia 1520 for $99 on AT&T now.
We're not leaving Windows Phone out in the cold this year, what with the addition of the Nokia Lumia 1520 to our 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. View more of everything you love on the big 6-inch HD 1080p display, featuring a super-sensitive touchscreen so you can type with your fingernails or while wearing gloves. Built-in Microsoft Office means you can view and edit your docs on the go. Plus download your favorite apps from the Windows store. Features a powerful 3,400 mAh battery that ensures your work and play time lasts longer.
You can pick up the Philips Hue Connected Bulb Starter Pack now from Amazon for $49.99.
Read More | Nokia Lumia 1520
Nokia has just slashed the price of the Lumia 1020 by $100, bringing the price of the Windows Phone with the crazy camera down to $199. We've been reviewing the Lumia 1020, and the camera app features are definitely impressive. If Windows Phone is your jam, you may want to consider it. For a limited time, the Microsoft Store will even throw in the $79 Lumia 1020 Camera Grip for free with purchase!
Read More | The Microsoft Store
The Nokia Lumia 1020 boasts a ridiculously large 41-megapixel PureView camera as the standout feature. It's "the largest back side illuminated sensor available on a smartphone." A smartphone needs more than just a great camera though, and Nokia has outfitted the Lumia 1020 with a 4.5-inch 1280 x 768 AMOLED PureMotion HD+ display covered by Gorilla Glass 3, and it sports "super sensitive touch" which allows you to use the phone even while wearing gloves.
The Lumia 1020 includes a wrist strap that you can optionally attach to it, and Nokia will also be selling a Camera Grip that makes the device easier to use as a camera. We're finalizing our Lumia 1020 review, but in the meantime, we've put together our Nokia Lumia 1020 unboxing gallery for you to get up-close and personal with the Windows Phone through pictures.
Gallery: Nokia Lumia 1020 unboxing gallery
We gave you the rundown on the Nokia Lumia 1020 a few days ago, and for those of you who took a look at the 41-megapixel-camera-toting smartphone and just had to have one, you'll be pleased to know that pre-order for the 1020 are now live. The device costs $299 with two-year contract, and will be released on July 23rd.