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WP Central

Earlier this morning we reported on a neat little trick that a few Windows Phone apps can do which is keep your Wi-Fi connection active even when the display is powered off.

That’s pretty useful feature for some people who are using a public Wi-Fi access point that requires you to “accept” the terms of service each time you re-connect. On a Windows Phone, every time you turn the display off it kills the Wi-Fi connection meaning you are forced to reconnect which can be problematic--even more so if you’re downloading some files.

Over at XDA, developer Ha Mai Tung (WinPhoneViet.com) has created a neat little homebrew app called Keep WiFi Alive which exploits the trick that some audio apps use. The app creates a fake music stream that makes the OS “think” it is downloading music, thereby keeping the Wi-Fi connection active.  The app is simple to use—just launch and hit the button.  To disable you can either turn off Wi-Fi in Settings or restart the phone.

Demo of Keep WiFi Alive

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WP Central
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Windows Phone confusing to RIM's CEO

The Windows Phone platform is confusing. At least to Research In Motion's CEO that is.

In a recent interview CNET, Thorsten Heins said that Microsoft is overwhelming consumers with Windows Phone 7, 7.5 and now 8. He said,

"It's confusing at the moment, but that's the way they communicate."

It's understandable that Heins will speak highly of RIM and down play the competition but RIM doesn't exactly have a crystal clear approach on things. The obvious way to illustrate this is to ask where is Blackberry 10?  But there's more.

Beyond the delay of Blackberry 10's release, RIM has had to deal with lay-offs, resignations and quarterly loses. All the while Microsoft is posting gains, expanding through acquisitions and partnerships, and introducing new products (Surface anyone?). Sure, Microsoft has mulitple versions of Windows Phone in circulation but so does RIM with Blackberry 6 and 7. While Windows Phone may have confused RIM, I'll take stability and growth with a little confusion any day.

And it may not be fair to compare these two companies with Microsoft's more diversified portfolio of products. Still... is the Windows Phone platform any more confusing than RIM's?  Then you have to wonder if Heins should be calling out Microsoft's platform when RIM seems to be on the down hill slide?

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33

Samsung SGH-i687 with Windows Phone 8 coming this fall?

WP Central

It’s about time we start hearing about actual Windows Phone 8 hardware—or at least the bit of bread crumbs hinting at their existence.

Such is the case with the Samsung SGH-i687 which showed up on Sammy’s site under the User Agent Profile. Not too much is revealed and the only hint at Windows Phone 8 is the mention of Internet Explorer 10 as the browser. It’s been speculated and somewhat confirmed that current Windows Phone 7 devices won’t be getting that browser update and even if they were, we can’t see Samsung prepping a Windows Phone 7 device so late in the game.

The other interesting if not somewhat disappointing figure is the 480x800 (WVGA) screen. Windows Phone 8 of course brings two higher resolutions—720x1280 and 768x1280—to the fold and many of us are hoping to get our hands on a device with such a high pixel density.

WP Central

From Samsung's site on the i687 IE10 listed as a supported browser

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WP Central

Amazon & Android. New competition or just hype?

Amazon, the online retailer we all know and love, are testing a smartphone. According to reports, sources within companies who supply hardware for Amazon's upcoming handset have confirmed that testing of said device is already underway, with production set to take place later this year or early 2013.

With what we've seen with the Kindle Fire tablet, it's a strong possibility that the online giant could well be using Google's Android OS to power their new hardware, which could then be sold under the Kindle brand. What's interesting to note, probably only from a Windows Phone point-of-view, is that Brandon Watson is currently at Amazon working away on the Kindle. Could he be collaborating with the company on a new smartphone after leaving Microsoft?

The WSJ reports that Amazon's smartphone has a display size sitting in the region between 4 and 5 inches - a perfect size to compete with the likes of the TITAN II and Galaxy S 3. It'll be interesting should Amazon choose to go with Android and launch a smartphone, since the platform is pack full of competitive companies, not to mention the established iPhone, BlackBerries, Windows Phones, etc. 

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WP Central

It looks like things are not as good as they should be in the Nokia camp. According to a poll of 38 Reuters analysts the Finnish company are expected to announce next week a second quarter operating loss of 236 million Euros ($289 million USD), almost double its loss in Q1 this year. Shares have fallen to the lowest value since 1996 which is terrible news to hear.

The team here at Windows Phone Central are clearly giving Nokia some love since they adopted Windows Phone as their primary operating system, however it is clear that the public's perception of Nokia may well have fallen by the wayside. We all know that Nokia had the phone market pretty much sown up a few years ago with Symbian and its S series OS outselling all other manufactures. Things have changed greatly since those days; now with iOS and Android dominating the smartphone market. In many countries where Windows Phone is growing it is still heavily out gunned by the opposition. Take here in the UK for example: For the last two years RIM have held the top spot with the BlackBerry being the number one selling smartphone. Nokia now have Windows Phones that are cheaper than a BlackBerry but it seems that getting the youngsters to part with their BlackBerry smartphones is just too much.

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WP Central

Can we expect changes in the Windows Phone 8 Lock screen? 

Back at the Summit a few weeks ago, Microsoft was very clear that they were not showing all of Windows Phone 8, in fact we were only getting a peek. The reason for that is multifaceted but their official position is they don’t want to show consumer features to consumers when we’re still months from release. Then there’s the whole idea of trying to prevent an Osborne effect i.e. hurting current sales by enticing customers to wait for new phones this fall.

One tiny area of interest was an observation today from a reader (erichon99) in the new Start screen video by Microsoft. At about the 2:15 mark (snapshot below) you can see some icons on the Lock screen: 1 Missed Call/Voicemail, 4 text messages and presumably 13 new Hotmail/Live mail messages.

What caught our reader’s attention was the new Hotmail/Live mail icon which ironically is the old Windows flag logo (yet the new logo is clearly used for the capacitive button). To be honest, we think this is just a mockup oversight and we have no idea if Hotmail/Live mail would use the old logo though we’re leaning towards ‘no’ on that one--in other words, nothing to see here. However...

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Xbox 360 Impressions: Jeremy McGrath's Offroad

Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad

2XL Games made a name for themselves with off-road racer Baja: Edge of Control for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. After that, they switched gears to mobile development for several years, continuing to focus on off-the-pavement racing games. Now 2XL is back on consoles with Jeremy McGrath’s Offroad for XBLA and PSN. After coming away bored and disappointed from another recent XBLA racer (Bang Bang Racing from Digital Reality), I’m happy to report that 2XL has a grasp on making a downloadable digital racer both simple and fun.

Offroad features five different vehicles types, from Rally Cars to Trophy Trucks. Before you head to the track, you’ll choose one of 8 livery options for your vehicle and then customize it with upgrade points. Experience earned from completing races or performing in-race actions like big jumps and passing competitors can be spent on upgrading your ride’s acceleration, top speed, handling, and breaking. Nothing too complex, but the customization options are appreciated.

Head past the break for our full impressions.

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WP Central

We're almost at the point where we're going to start leaving flowers at the grave of the poor Sony Ericsson (now Sony Mobile) Jolie Windows Phone, which has had prototypes circulating throughout the web for a good number of months now. We last looked at the black version of "Jolie" when a hands-on video was published on YouTube.

Back to the white / silver version, and an owner of said Windows Phone has sent in some more photos to Windows Phone Italy. Not only does the slide-out keyboard look inviting, the overall look and design of the device itself is unique, compared to the Windows Phones we had when the platform launched almost two years ago.

It's a shame that such a stunning 2010-esque Windows Phone simply never came to be. But the tractor beams installed on the Android mothership appeared to be too advanced for Microsoft to best (and too expensive to acquire), which led to Sony ditching Windows Phone for the green droid. Check out some more shots after the break.

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Windows Store WPCentral

Kevin Turner today announced that Microsoft’s first ‘international’ store would be opening in Toronto, Canada. Whilst not exactly too far from the US, this still represents the first time Microsoft have ventured from their home turf to setup shop. The first emporium will open to the public in Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto later this year. The stores should be open in time to showcase Windows Phone 8, Surface & of course Office 15.

Whilst most will see this news as the right step forward, I remain a little cautious that this will lead to a rapid surge to get international Stores around the world. Why do I have my doubts? Microsoft often plays in Canada with some of its strategies. I remember the heady days of the Zune when Microsoft announced this service would go international (to Canada). From then until now, it has taken the company years to get some of its core Zune services to the rest of the world. The Zune didn’t end up going international, Zune services only went that way with the arrival of Windows Phone.

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Tuenti Head

Telefonica introducing a cross-platform mobile messaging service

Tuenti (official website) has announced an upcoming Windows Phone app, as well as a solution for iOS. Currently the service is available for both Android and BlackBerry (as beta - launched today), with the remaining two apps coming in the next few weeks. So what's the deal with Tuenti and should you be interested?

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Switzerland is the latest country that has laid host to the Lumia Windows Phone challenge, a Nokia marketing campaign which is taking a number of countries by storm. Much like the famous 'Smoked by Windows Phone' competition that Ben Rudolph started back at CES 2012, the Lumia Challenge puts a Nokia Lumia 900 Windows Phone against a competitor device.

Should the participant beat the Lumia they pocket a prize, but should they lose they have to publicly admit defeat. According to Nokia Switzerland, the Lumia 900 won 197 of 200 challenges. Locations included Zurich, Bern, Basel, Lucerne, Winterthur, St. Gallen, Neuchâtel, Geneva and Lausanne.

While everything may appear doom and gloom at Nokia HQ with all-time-low stock prices, upcoming Windows Phone 8 ("Apollo"), and difficult times ahead for platform penetration, the manufacturer can at least still gloat at the fact Lumia smartphones are more efficient than the competition.

Source: YouTube; thanks, Roman, for the tip!

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WP Central Skype Wi-Fi connection feature

Windows Phone is very careful with how much power it uses. Normal behaviour for the OS is that whilst running on battery it will drop the Wi-Fi connection after a short period in order to conserve as much juice as possible. We have seen reports that point the finger at some apps which are seemingly overriding normal power saving behaviour. Is this a feature or a bug, I decided to do some tests.

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WP Central

Warning: This game comes with Bro-ops & could be awesome for your health

We’ve given you a sneak back in early June but now you too can get your hands on Glu Mobile’s Gun Bros game for Windows Phone. And it’s free.

The game is a classic top-down arcade shooter (reminds us a lot of SmashTV) where you and your ‘Bro’ go around and basically destroy everything you can. We like that idea. Plus you can upgrade you weapons along the way giving a unique level of customization.

We took it for just a quick spin (see the video below) on our Titan II and boy to the graphics look stellar…very arcade like and the controls aren’t too shabby (dual virtual sticks), so we’re thinking it should be good but look for our detailed review a little later.

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WP Central

Is the Bing Social sidebar finally coming to the UK?

It seems that the Bing UK team are beginning to (or are testing a potential) rollout of the design refresh we've seen in the US. Unfortunately, while we can clearly see a familiar login element, we are not receiving the actual sidebar itself. Once Bing UK was loaded, we could login via Windows Live and subsequently connect to Facebook.

After logging in was achieved, and Facebook accounts were connected, once loading search results we were presented with a new look, as well as our name (with drop down arrow for menu options) accompanied by a settings icon. Rewind back to the release of the Bing US design refresh and you'll see something similar (see below screencap) to what we currently have with Bing UK.

Bing US Refresh

We could well be on the verge of an identical design refresh with further social integration, which the US has enjoyed for some time. Have you noticed anything changing on Bing UK? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks, Louis, for the heads up!

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WP Central

Are you a fan of plants? Do you hate zombies? Then if you haven’t already purchased Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap Games, now is your chance because it’s the Deal of the Week!

Plants vs. Zombies is up there with one of the best Xbox LIVE titles for Windows Phone. It has cute graphics, hilarious and bizarre gameplay and it has an addictive quality that makes many users unable to put it down. For these reasons we give it a big thumbs-up and highly recommend it.

The game mostly involves planting plants that shoot at various zombies attacking your house. Variations in plants, ammo, tactics and zombies keep this alternate-tower defense game from getting stale.

WP Central

All is not perfect though as PvZ hasn’t had an update since January and it is still missing proper Mango support (gah!) which is a heck of a shame since it’s so easy to fix. Hopefully PopCap can get around to fixing that and maybe adding a few bonuses for the rest of us?

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RCS-e confirmed for Windows Phone 8

During the IFA Preview today in Munich, Deutsche Telekom confirmed that Windows Phone 7.8 will have Rich Communications Suite (RCS-e) functionality. The functionality was noted earlier in the leaked details and will come in the form of a separate application and integrated with Windows Phone 8. The RCS-e services will be a cross platform, cross network functionality Previously, RCS-e was announced during the Summit a few weeks ago for Windows Phone 8 but it's a technology that most people are not familiar.

In Deutsche Telekom's presentation they discussed using Joyn services that will provide chat, file transfer and video chat features between carriers. . Joyn will be interoperable between Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone networks for now with O2 Germany coming on board after launch.

The service will provide free chat and file transfers and charge for video chat. Commercial availability is planned for October. It will be interesting to see how the RCS-e services match up with existing services such as Skype. Equally interesting will be to see if the U.S. Carriers can play nice to establish such interoperability.

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WP Central

As the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (MPC) in Toronto continues, Windows Phone 8 made a brief appearance today for the 16,000 people who showed up for the annual conference. In fact, anecdotal evidence from attendees suggests Windows Phone has a rather large presence at the conference.

As far as we know, no new features were presented but instead Microsoft focused on the new Start screen, being “business ready” and integration with Microsoft’s services, including Xbox 360 and Windows 8.

One of the most important signals that Microsoft is shifting strategy is the recognition that “Windows Phone” just doesn’t have the same brand recognition as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android (or perhaps its reputation preceded it). We saw this demonstrated with “Lumia” trending higher than “Windows Phone” in Google searches. Now, Microsoft seems to have recognized this problem and is looking to take it on with Windows Phone 8.

WP Central

Gruhler at WPC'12 in Toronto talking about Windows Phone 8

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Microsoft Slate Design re-brand

Andrew Kim, currently attending the Art Centre College of Design has completed what I can only describe as one of the most compelling Microsoft rebranding exercises I have ever seen.  Andrew explains clearly, not only what he thinks is wrong with the current Microsoft picture but goes on to design it. And what a job he does.

Whilst Microsoft is on the tipping point of bringing together its whole eco system there remains a problem, image. Those that remember the launch of Windows 7 should know to what I’m referring. Microsoft has an often-confusing marketing message, that video, um, where they had the party to celebrate the Windows 7 launch says all. I am certainly not looking for a repeat of that! Now that Microsoft has some amazing products and the Metro UI to shout about, it is time they had a good think about a serious ‘reimagining’ of their company-wide image.

Whilst the name Windows is strong with consumers, the branding simply does not match. Andrew shows how they might be able to re-assert themselves as ‘bringers of tomorrow, a company that seeks to push our world forward though progress through technology. I see branding & marketing message as Microsoft’s next major hurdle. I feel that whilst the new Windows Logo is nice, it is not without problems, I personally also find it a little uncomfortable visually.

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WP Central\

Winner of the Imagine Cup '12 - quadSquad with enable talk

The annual Imagine Cup organized by Microsoft to support student creativity in solving real world problems has just wrapped in Sidney, Australia. As usual, some of the top winners were related to Windows Phone development so we’re going to take a moment to give them their props.

WP Central

Early glove prototype

First place (Software Design) – quadSqaud (Ukraine) - In what is probably one of the most unique and coolest uses of a Windows Phone so far, quadSquad have created a company called enable talk (enabletalk.com) around their gesture interpretation technology.

In short, the problem for many people who use sign-language is the inability to readily communicate with those who don’t speak the same language (there are many sign-languages out in the world and they all have the full capacity of spoken language). 

quadSquad solve this problem by having users wear special sensory gloves that detect the signing. That data is then sent to the Windows Phone where the software takes over, converting the sign to spoken word—literally. enable talk uses Microsoft’s text-to-speech feature to “say” the whole word once it’s signed, giving signers a way to verbally communicate with those unfamiliar with the language.

Creating software is one thing but the team also made the glove system by hand (pun!) which is no small feat. Then they had to record all the gestures in a computer that can be stored for later recognition. The whole thing fits well within Microsoft’s Kinect strategy and of course helps address a real-world problem too. Awesome.

WP Central

The Drexel Dragons won for Game Design (phone) with Math Dash

First place (Game Design—phone) – Drexel Dragons (US) - Ah, math. We hated it in school and we still kind of dislike it as adults but who can deny that it’s not critical? Drexel Dragons took on the challenge of making a game that can help students learn math. What better way to do that than make a game called Math Dash?

Math Dash is a Windows Phone game that allows users to complete problems by dragging the answers (in the form of sparkly ‘atoms’) into the equation field. With the correct answer, users get points for the game and yes, another new math problem. A simple progress bar keeps track of you right versus wrong answers, allowing you to jump to the next level or signaling that you lost. In addition, you can drag number atoms on to other orbs to create new numbers, should you not have the right one to choose. Finally there are also power-ups and hazards to keep it interesting and feeling like a game.

The concept behind Imagine Cup is great—it gives students a chance to shine and actually makes the world slightly better; kudos to Microsoft and all the student developers who come together every year for the competition. Each first-place winning team takes home $8, 000 for their effort.

Check the videos of both winners after the break...

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Official Windows Phone 2012 Olympics App just around the corner?

The 2012 Summer Olympics are just over two weeks away. The London games are set to begin on July 17, 2012 and the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) is eagerly working on an official Windows Phone app for the games. LOCOG's Chief Information Officer Gerry Pennell stated the release is imminent and should be available in days.

While features of the Windows Phone app weren't mentioned, the Windows Phone version should be similar to the iOS and Android Olympics app that sends game results and schedules to the app.  A version of the app is also in the works for Blackberry devices.

There are currently a handful of 2012 Olympic apps already on the Marketplace and it will be nice to see an official offering join the ranks. Speaking of what's already available, look for a roundup of these Olympic apps this Friday.

We'll keep you posted when the official apps hits the Marketplace.

Source: V3; Thanks, Vijay, for the tip!

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WP Central

The "new" Outsider app for Windows Phone

Delays with publishing in the Marketplace should not be a surprise anymore to those familiar with Windows Phone and such was the case with Liquid Daffodil’s Outsider app which is finally live in the Marketplace.

If you recall, Outsider is the re-brand of the Windows Phone community app I’m a WP7! along with its companion app, Outsider Extras. The app was submitted 31 days ago but due to some debate and controversy over the logo, it was delayed a bit.

Outsider contains the same features as I’m a WP7! that includes tips, videos, ringtones, wallpaper, hangouts, gamer hubs, meetups, checkins, messaging and more. It’s a whole sub-community of users and is the largest of its kind for Windows Phone.

WP Central

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WP Central

Faster, Eco! Kill, Kill!

Jaxbot over at Windows Phone Hacker as an interesting experiment going on for those with rooted phones (mostly first gen Windows Phones). The app is called ‘Eco’ and is an aggressive battery saver app.

In short, it turns of all unneeded processes, sensors and clears out the memory for a kind of fresh start and then some. Jaxbot is not even clear if it will actually save battery life (he’s awaiting a battery replacement, hence his need for this) but he’s looking for feedback from users to see if he should go further with it.

Windows Phone users do have a ‘Battery Saver’ option already under Settings which disables all Push services until they recharge again but ‘Eco’ is much more than that, at least in theory.

We’re quite okay with our battery life but we know there are some of you who are either extreme users or have OCD and need to save every drop.  For those peeps, you may want to give this a go.

Head to Windows Phone Hacker for more info and the XAP file. Remember, you need a rooted phone which is more than just developer unlocked. Check the demo video after the break. 

For more info on battery saving tricks, see the homebrew Live Tile battery meter, custom battery icons and how ads in free apps can be huting your power consumption

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WP Central

Who’s the best at finding out Xbox Live releases ahead of time? Why, Windows Phone Central, of course! We’ve got the exclusive first word of tomorrow’s new Live title... Gun Bros, which we first announced back in April, launches this Wednesday.

Gun Bros

Gun Bros is a top-down twin-stick shooter, not unlike Zombies on the Phone. But instead of a horror theme, this one’s pure sci-fi, with much more content to boot. Players choose from one of two titular bruddas, outfit them with a bevy of high-tech weapons and armor, and then descend onto several contested planets and start filling their alien invaders full of lasers. Don’t worry; I hear the aliens always drink the last of the milk and then leave the jug in the refrigerator instead of throwing it away. Such atrocities will not go unpunished!

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WP Central

It was only a couple of weeks ago that we brought you a video overview of gMaps Pro for Windows Phone. The popular app has now received an update bringing a few welcomed feature improvements.

  • Improved and slick StreetView
  • Your places (with favorites, recent and pinned items)
  • Latitude as layer on your map
  • New localizations: Portuguese, Japanese
  • Offline Chinese offset detection

The big difference for me is the StreetView update. It was a bit jerky to say the least. The update and made is smooth and sweet, just like on the web. Nice job gMaps.

You can download the free (ad supported) version of gMaps here or use the QR code below for the Pro version. I can't stand adverts on my apps!

QR:gMapsPro

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Windows Phone 8, not a phone version of Windows 8

Over at Pocket Lint there is an interesting interview with Greg Sullivan, the Senior Product manager for Windows Phone detailing why Microsoft has decided to continue down the route of an entirely separate operating system for phones rather than using Windows RT.

Sullivan states that he believes that the phone is "unique enough to devote a specific effort... and differentiating that", going on to make comparisons to the most successful tablet on the market at this time:

"When I use an iPad I think it’s a really pleasurable experience, it’s a great consumption device, but I constantly run into guardrails. I want to connect a USB mass storage, oh I can't. I want to print to a printer other than the one Lexmark or whatever, I can't. I keep wanting to do things I can't do. I think it's primarily because of the fundamental strategy where they [Apple] took a phone OS and stretched it up to a tablet."

"We are taking a PC OS and shrinking it down. We could have done the same thing, but it doesn't make sense. When we deliver Surface or any Windows 8 device, the Pro model will run every Windows app ever written. That think will run Visicalc 1.0 from 1981. I saw a demo. It's amazing. It's part of the promise."

"They draw the line between the phone/tablet and the PC, and we are drawing the line between the PC/tablet and the phone."

Let's back up a little bit, and remember the differences between Windows 8 and Windows RT. Windows 8 is your full-fat, all inclusive, no compromise operating system which runs on the traditional x86 infrastructure. This means it can be installed on your existing or new systems built on an Intel or AMD processor (or something more exotic using the same instruction set)...

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