Microsoft Surface Pro now available in Canada and U.S.

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Feb 092013
 

Microsoft Surface Windows 8 ProAs promised and despite the latest snow storm derailing launch plans in New York, today is the day that the Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro or Surface Pro as it is now known makes its debut in Canada and the U.S. Unlike the Surface RT, it runs Microsoft Windows 8 and allows users to run full gamut of Windows applications. As a tradeoff though, it will be slightly thicker and heavier and have a shorter battery life.

The 64GB version of the Surface Pro will sell for CA$919/US$899 and the 128GB version for CA$1019/US$999. Both versions will come with a Surface pen with Palm Block technology. Accessories including the Touch Cover (CA/US$119.99) and Type Cover (CA/US$129.99) will be sold separately.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is available through all Microsoft retail stores and microsoftstore.com. It will also be carried by chains such as Staples and Best Buy.

Read more: Microsoft Store

Google extends Exchange ActiveSync support to July 31, 2013

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Jan 312013
 
Google

Today was to have been the day that Google’s Sync service would stop being available to new Windows Phone devices. Fortunately, Microsoft yesterday announced that Google was extending their support for new Windows Phone connections to July 31st, 2013. The extension will allow Microsoft to build into their software support for CalDAV and CardDAV, the protocols to be used to connect to Google’s Calendar and Contacts services.

At the same time, the Windows Phone team is building support into our software for the new sync protocols Google is using for calendar and contacts—CalDAV and CardDAV. These new protocols, combined with our existing support for the IMAP protocol for email, will enable Windows Phone users to continue to connect to Google services after July 31, 2013.

It’s likely that Microsoft will push out a new update before July 31st to add the necessary functionality to Windows Phone devices. While devices now using the service will find that the Google Sync service will continue to work past the deadline, it’s unclear how much longer Google will support it. An update would future-proof devices against a future shutdown of the service.

Read more: Windows Phone Blog

Microsoft planning additional Surface tablets

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Jan 252013
 
Microsoft

Microsoft may have a good reason for not disclosing sales numbers for its Surface Windows RT; general concensus is that it is selling quite slowly. One estimate suggests that only one million were sold in Q4 2012. One factor working against the Surface is its relatively high cost – it starts at US$ / CA$ . The upcoming Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet will likely face a similar challenge with its price starting at US$999/CA$1019. That does not mean that Microsoft is ready to give up on the Surface. Calling it “one part of the overall Windows 8 story,” it instead plans to offer more models covering a wider number of price points.

Asked about goals for the Surface on yesteray’s earnings call, Peter Klein, Microsoft’s CFO, said:

Our goal is to continue to build that business to highlight the incredible power of Windows 8 in an interesting set of devices. We are going to expand geographically. We are going to expand the product line up. We are going to expand retail distribution and capacity. So we look forward to continuing the growth of that business.

He later added that Microsoft was looking to offer “a greater variety of devices at a bigger variety of price points.” No further details were given about these future devices. earlier rumours have suggested we could see three new Surface models including a smaller Surface RT 2 with an 8.6-inch display, a larger Surface Pro model with an 11.6-inch display and a “Surface Book” with a 14.6-inch display and a 22nm Intel “Haswell” chip. At first glance, only the first appears set to have a lower price point than current models, sugesting that Microsoft may look to its hardware partners to drive down the cost of Windows tablets while the Surface ones remain more of a premium device.

Read more: Seeking Alpha (Source: Venture Beat)

Canadian pricing for the upcoming Surface Windows 8 Pro

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Jan 232013
 

Surface Windows 8 ProMicrosoft yesterday announced that the Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet would hit stores on February 9th. As expected, Canadian pricing will be slightly higher than U.S. pricing. The 64GB model will sell for CA$919 and the 128GB model for CA$1019. Much as we saw with the Surface RT pricing, Canadian pricing adds a CA$20 premium to the U.S. pricing. This is somewhat surprising as the Canadian dollar is now stronger than the U.S. one. You can probably chalk it up to additional transportation and distribution costs for Canada.

The optional Touch and Type Covers will continue to sell for CA$129 and CA$139 respectively.

Microsoft Canada also announced the 64GB version of the Surface Windows RT will be available in a new 64GB standalone version for CA$619. Previously only available with a bundled black Touch Cover, customers will now be able to choose what if any Cover they want to buy.

The Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro will be available in Canada from the Microsoft retail stores, microsoftstore.com, and a number of other still-unspecified “locations.”

Read more: Microsoft Canada

Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro launch in Canada and U.S. set for February 9th

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Jan 222013
 

Microsoft Surface Windows 8 ProMicrosoft today announced that its Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet (renamed from the original Microsoft Surface Pro with Windows 8) will launch in Canada and the U.S. on February 9th, only slightly later than it had originally promised.

Surface Windows 8 Pro is an exciting new addition to the Surface family, bringing a powerful, work-ready device that is just at home in the boardroom as it is the family room. Whether you’re a road warrior, a student or someone who just wants a flexible and powerful Intel PC, the Surface Windows 8 Pro will deliver. It’s the perfect complement to the Surface Windows RT and delivers hours and hours of entertainment with plenty of power and productivity to get your work done as well.

Unlike the Windows Surface RT, the Surface Windows 8 Pro will not be limited to a subset of applications and will run the full gamut of Windows applications. As a tradeoff though, it will be slightly thicker and heavier.

Microsoft already announced pricing back in November: US$899 for the 64GB model and US$999 for the the 128GB one. Pricing in Canada may be slightly higher if Windows RT tablet pricing (CA$20 higher) is any indication. Both versions will come with a Surface pen with Palm Block technology. Accessories including the Touch Cover and Type Cover will be sold separately.

The Microsoft Surface Windows 8 Pro will be available through all Microsoft retail stores, microsoftstore.com and at Staples and Best Buy in the U.S. as well as from a number of locations in Canada. Other markets will follow in the coming weeks.

Read more: The Official Microsoft Blog

ASUS considering Windows Phone 8 including Padfone model

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Jan 172013
 
ASUS

Things are looking for the Windows Phone 8 operating system. According to The Wall Street Journal, ASUS is the latest manufacturer to be considering making devices powered by Microsoft’s mobile operating system. Benson Lin, corporate vice president of mobile communication products confirmed that ASUS is currently engaged in licensing discussions with Microsoft. “There is no target timeline… but we are interested in making Windows phones.”

Lin also revealed that ASUS proposed to Microsoft to develop a Padfone device powered by Windows 8. The current ASUS Padfone 2 is an Android-powered smartphone that docks into a tablet accessory. “With our Padfone concept, the phone plus tablet, I think it makes sense for Windows 8,” Mr. Lin said.

Given that Microsoft offers Windows Phone 8 for smartphones and Windows 8 for tablets and PCs, it will be interesting to see how the Padfone would work. Could it use Windows Phone 8 in smartphone mode and switch to Windows 8 when docked? Or will ASUS wait for the rumoured Windows Blue release which is supposed to bring Windows 8 to smaller-screens?

The report adds that ASUS is currently also in discussion with U.S. carriers to bring its phones to the U.S. perhaps as early as next year.

Read more: The Wall Street Journal

Microsoft Surface RT sales only reach 1 million last quarter?

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Jan 142013
 

Microsoft SurfaceMicrosoft’s tablet business may be off to a slow start. Rumours back in November suggested that Microsoft had reduced its 2012 orders from 4 million to 2 million units. UBS analyst Brent Thill now expects that Microsoft may have only sold about 1 million Surface RT tablets in Q4 2012. Thill cites two reasons for the low sales: “Surface RT is a consumer device with [fourth-quarter] sales suffering from the difficult iPad compare and narrow distribution.”

Such numbers could well justify Samsung’s recent decision not to launch its Windows RT-powered ATIV Tab tablet in the U.S.

Thill expects that Surface sales may improve with the launch of the upcoming Surface with Windows 8 Pro. He describes it as “more promising” as he expects that it will be a credible alternative to the Apple iPad in the enterprise space.

Thill estimates that Microsoft could sell about 2.5 million Surface tablets by the end of June when Microsoft’s fiscal 2013 year ends. Sales could climb to 8 million in FY2014. As a comparison, Apple is expected to have sold over 20 million iPads in the same period.

Read more: CNET

Sprint to offer two Windows Phone 8 smartphones this summer

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Jan 102013
 
Sprint

After teasing that Windows Phone 8 devices were coming soon, Sprint earlier this week shed more light on the launch. The company revealed that it would launch with two Windows Phone 8 devices, one from HTC and one from Samsung, sometime this summer.

“Sprint has had a strong relationship with Microsoft for many years so we are excited to reinforce our commitment to the Windows 8 platform by sharing the details and timing for our first Windows Phone 8 smartphones,” said Fared Adib, Sprint senior vice president, product development and operations. “These smartphones combine a robust new operating platform with the benefit of Sprint’s unlimited data plans. There is no doubt these phones will quickly become an extension of your PC experience right in the palm of your hand.”

While Sprint’s press release is light on details about the devices, Sprint’s director of device delivery Ryan Sullivan indicated that they would be new devices. “They’ll be current,” he said. “We’re working for current product launches, and not necessarily to launch on six-month-old hardware.”

Today, Sprint only offers Android, BlackBerry, and iOS devices. Sullivan hinted that Sprint could even offer devices powered by the Firefox and Tizen operating systems in the future.

Read more: Sprint and PCMag

Microsoft releases Surface With Windows RT firmware update

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Jan 092013
 

Microsoft SurfaceAs part of its regular “Patch Tuesday,” Microsoft yesterday released an update for the Surface RT. It’s a maintenance release that provides System Firmware (UEFI) improvements including:

  • Improvements to audio playback when in Connected Standby
  • Additional capabilities for handling firmware updates during low battery situations

While many were hoping for some pesky Wi-Fi issue fixes, Microsoft is still “working on getting it resolved.” A fix will need to wait for another update.b

If you have not received the update, you can check for it manually by selecting Settings > Change PC Settings > Windows Update > Check for Updates.

Read more: Microsoft

Nokia CEO on Android: “Anything is possible”

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Jan 072013
 
Nokia

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop had some surprising words in an interview published today by Spanish El Pais. At one point, the conversation turned to Android. Elop explained why Nokia chose Windows Phone over Android (concerns about differentiation and domination by other manufacturers) when planning its turnaround. But he left the door open for the future. When asked about whether he dismissed launching an Android phone next year, he answered that “anything is possible.”

While this puts into question Nokia’s commitment to Windows Phone, Elop explained that the company remains fully committed to both Microsoft and Windows Phone but that he was keeping an eye on the future. Elop suggests that HTML 5 could eventually make any mobile operating system irrelevant:

“In the current ecosystem wars we are using Windows Phone as our weapon. But we are always thinking about what’s coming next, what will be the role of HTML 5, Android… HTML5 could make the platform itself—being Android, Windows Phone or any other—irrelevant in the future, but it’s still too soon [to tell]. Today we are committed and satisfied with Microsoft, but anything is possible.”

Nokia is pushing to grow its market share to double digits in 2013. Not only will it need to continue to battle against the dominant Apple iOS and Google Android operating systems but some new players in 2013, including BlackBerry 10 and Tizen, could also make things more interesting.

Read more: El Pais (in Spanish) [Google translation] (Source: Gizmodo)

Sprint teases Windows Phone 8 is coming soon

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Jan 062013
 
Sprint

Sprint is the lone major U.S. carrier not to offer at least one Windows Phone 8 device. That may be about to change. It has launched a new support page that promises that “Windows Phone 8 is coming soon!”

It had previously indicated that it would do so sometime in 2013 but never provided more specific timelines. “Sprint and Microsoft are partnering to bring Windows Phone 8 to Sprint’s customers – operating on its 4G LTE network – next year,” the company had told PCMag last November. With CES 2013 just around the corner, it’s quite possible that we will know more this week.

Sprint does not have a very extensive history with Windows Phone. It only ever launched the HTC Arrive back in early 2011.

What Windows Phone 8 device would you like to see Sprint launch?

Read more: Sprint (Source: The Verge)

Google to restore Google Maps access for Windows Phone devices

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Jan 052013
 
Google Maps

Windows Phone users started reporting yesterday that they could no longer access Google Maps. They were instead redirected to Google’s mobile search page. Initial suspicions ranged from some sort of technical issue to Google willfully blocking access. When Google initially responded, it explained that Google Maps was optimized for WebKit browsers and that other browsers such as Internet Explorer would not be able to access it. Confronted by howls of protest and proof that this was a new development rather than something that had always been true, it appears to have changed its tune somewhat.

Google today issued the following statement to The Next Web:

We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users.

In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that’s why there is no redirect for those users.

Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users.

As Google points out, the version of Internet Explorer found in Windows Phone 8 handles the Google Maps much better and it will remove the redirect it has put in place.

Google is well within its rights to decide to support or not support non-Webkit browsers. But it should have been more transparent about its recent decision to redirect IE traffic to its main search page. The move follows Google’s recent decisions to stop supporting Microsoft ActiveSync and statements that it had no plans to develop Windows Phone version of its apps.

Read more: The Next Web

Microsoft ‘disappointed’ by Google’s Exchange ActiveSync decision

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Jan 022013
 
Microsoft

In a statement to The Verge, Microsoft said today that it is “surprised and disappointed” with Google’s decision to stop offering its Google Sync service to new devices as of January 30th, 2013.

Like many, we are surprised and disappointed that Google wants to make it more difficult for customers to connect their accounts to their devices. If you want better email, especially for your phone or tablet, now is a perfect time to join the millions who have already made the choice to upgrade to Outlook.com. Windows Phone users will still be able to sync their Google email via IMAP.

Microsoft’s new Outlook.com service supports Exchange ActiveSync.

Today’s statement suggests that Microsoft will not support Gmail contacts and calendar sync at this time. It also remains to be seen if Microsoft will support CardDAV and CalDAV on Windows Phone to allow for such synchronization.

As for Google, it will continue to support existing Google Sync connections. It will also continue to fully support Google Sync for Google Sync for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education.

Read more: The Verge

HTC working on Windows RT tablets for 2013?

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Dec 212012
 

HTCAfter being rebuffed by Microsoft earlier this year, it now appears that HTC will launch some Windows RT tablets next year. Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg reports today that HTC is working on both a 12-inch model as well as a 7-inch one with phone capabilities. Both will be powered by Qualcomm chipsets.

HTC could be among the first to offer a 7-inch Windows RT tablet. It would allow Microsoft and its partners to compete against competing 7-inch tablets such as the Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPad mini and Google Nexus 7.

HTC recently confirmed its exit from the U.S. tablet market. It left the door open to a return and it now appears that it could do so in Q3 2013 with its new Windows RT tablets. Could these be the “something unique” HTC has been looking for?

HTC reportedly recently cancelled a large-screen Windows Phone 8 smartphone over concerns that its resolution would not be high enough to compete against competing similarly sized devices.

Read more: Bloomberg

Google dropping Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support for new devices

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Dec 142012
 

GoogleGoogle today announced that its Google Sync service would no longer be available to new devices as of January 30th, 2013. The service allowed users to access Gmail, Calendar and Contacts through the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol.

With the recent launch of CardDAV, Google now offers similar access via IMAP, CalDAV and CardDAV, making it possible to build a seamless sync experience using open protocols.

Microsoft currently does not support CalDAV and CardDAV in Windows Phone 8. It remains to be seen if it will come up with a workaround to this development. New Windows Phone 8 users may want to look at Microsoft’s new Outlook.com service (which supports Exchange ActiveSync) instead of Gmail.

Fortunately for current users, Google will continue to support existing Google Sync connections. Google will also continue to fully support Google Sync for Google Sync for Google Apps for Business, Government and Education.

Google made the announcement as part of a larger announcement. It is also shutting down “several less popular Google Calendar features” such as Appointment slots and Smart Rescheduler and Add gadget by URL. The Punchd Android and iOS apps, used to keep loyalty punch cards on smartphones, will be shut down on June 7th, 2013 along with merchant support for these.

Read more: Google Official Blog