2012

2012 has been an important year for Nokia and Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 was released with new hardware from Samsung, HTC and of course Nokia. The Lumia 920, 8X and ATIV S are three flagship Windows Phones that represent the best from each company regarding design, specifications and the overall experience. But just how well has the Lumia 920 been received by the media?

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Todd Brix has published a new entry on the Windows Phone Developer Blog detailing highlights of 2012 for Windows Phone. The goal for the team was to establish a new, scalable platform on the mobile phone as well as the cloud. Providing a unique experience for consumers to enjoy when downloading and using apps from a catalogue of apps.

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According to Seeking Alpha who have managed to calculate an estimation as to just how much Microsoft has made from Windows Phone in the last fiscal year, the software giant is estimated to be looking at $736 million from the mobile division. While we're still on the steady growth path Microsoft will continue to shield revenue performance of the platform until there's something to frame on the office wall.

Seeking Alpha worked out that by removing each non-Windows Phone layer from Microsoft's EDD (Entertainment and Devices Division), they found Windows Phone revenues has been fairly steady over the past few years, since its launch in 2010.

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File this under: Expected.

Currently the IFA show is occurring in Germany right now and we have our team on the ground for live coverage throughout the day. As somewhat expected, Samsung is presumed to be showing off a Windows Phone 8 device, specifically the Ativ-S.

The name Ativ-S was revealed yesterday as the new lineup from Samsung for forthcoming Windows Phone 8 series. The name Ativ (which is oddly ‘Vita’ backwards) looks to be the codenamed Odyssey that T-Mobile US is rumored to be stocking this fall.

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In a new study just released tonight, Appcelerator and IDC surveyed 3,632 'Appcelerator Titanium' developers from May 11-18, 2012 on their plans for app development now and in the future. Though not a survey of consumer demand the data is but one piece of the bigger picture of how Windows Phone (and Android, iOS, BlackBerry and webOS) is fairing amongst developers. For that reason, it should be considered as a metric but not necessarily the only one to measure interest or future success.

The news is not very good for Windows Phone but there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the future iterations of the OS, specifically the ‘Apollo’ update coming later this year.  That's interesting as Windows Phone has been coasting on ‘hope’ for nearly two years now and developers have not yet completely abandoned it, seeing weakness in Android.

For a complete run down, head past the break…

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Microsoft has announced open enrollment for their 2012 (fall) Xbox LIVE update for the Xbox 360 console.

The new features for this update we revealed at E3 back in June are the ones coming for this update so getting a sneak peek is always a blast. Some of those new features for this preview include:

  • Internet Explorer for Xbox
  • Personalized dashboard recommendations
  • Enhanced category search and discovery features
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71% of developers are optimistic about Windows Phone 8

A new survey today from RW Baird shows some promising news for the Windows Phone platform.  Despite some recent setbacks and still less-than-stellar adoption rates, devs are keeping their eyes on the prize with Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft’s future.

The poll shows that since the June 20thWindows Phone Summit, 71% of respondents had an increased interest in the platform because of the new Windows Phone 8 capabilities.  That’s quite a high number and we believe a smart move as the promise of overlapping development for Windows 8 Desktop, Surface and Windows Phone 8 will offer some tantalizing opportunities for increased revenue.

Regarding developers long term outlook for Windows Phone 7, devs were less enthusiastic with a noticeable decline from 6.3 (out of 10) back in Q2 2011 to just 4.2 in Q2 2012.  Why the drop? It’s actually hard to decipher as it is far from clear just what devs understand as “the future of Windows Phone 7”. From a technical standpoint, the platform is winding down but Nokia and Microsoft have promised long-term support. Microsoft has also ensured that Windows Phone 7 apps will work on 8—so are devs turning from WP7 and looking to WP8 instead? That seems to be the case.

The worst news though is aimed at RIM and their upcoming Blackberry 10 platform. Developer interest for their next gen OS is precipitously declining with only a 3.8 (out of 10) now hopeful for its long term success. RIM has responded to this report noting that they’ve published 15K apps since January and their dev camps have had robust attendance. All of that may be true but image and perception are everything and people's view of RIM’s future looks negative—that is never a good thing and hard to turnaround. (But see Crackberry for an alternative analysis).

Perhaps it’s not surprising that iOS and Android remain strong with 9.3 and 8.7 scores for developers’ faith in their long term potential with Android taking a very slight dip.  The survey data comes from 200 developers culled from a sample set of 4,300 making the numbers seemingly reliable.

The takeaway from this news would be developers clearly see Windows Phone 8 as the third ecosystem for smartphones while webOS, Symbian and RIM’s future OS are clearly either dead or floundering. That's something to be hopeful about.

Source: RW Baird; via Crackberry, All Things D

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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.

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.

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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Industry research firm Gartner just released its latest data on mobile phone sales for the first quarter of 2012. There are some interesting points to be pulled out of this report that I wanted to address.

Samsung dominates Android. Gartner’s data says that Korea-based Samsung shipped over 40% of all Android handsets last quarter. So that still leaves 60% of the market to other vendors, right? Yes, but according to Gartner none of these other vendors make up more than 10% of Android volume. None.

In terms of handset brands, Samsung is also now the #1 phone maker in the world, ahead of Nokia.

Nokia may have the #2 position in the market, but we need to remember that most of Nokia’s volume is based on the dying Symbian OS. Very little is based on its Windows-powered future at this point. So, considering that we’re looking at the death of the dumphone over the next few years, let’s look at smartphone vendors and volumes.

Samsung is the #1 player, having shipped 38 million smartphones. Most of these are Android powered, with a smaller number of Bada OS phones. Here’s how smartphone market share looks, by vendor, based on the Gartner data:

  1. Samsung with 26% market share
  2. Apple with 23%
  3. RIM with 7%

These are essentially the top 3 smartphone players right now. I realize that ZTE, LG and Huawei have a larger portion of the mobile market than RIM, but RIM is a pure play on smartphones whereas these three are not. Remember that other Android vendors have less than one quarter of Samsung’s volume.

 

What does this data mean to Windows Phone?

Back in late Feb, I wrote a post on Crackberry about how we’ll know if RIM is successful. In that article I suggested that, as the mobile phone market moves purely to smartphones, RIM could go from 3% market share to over 5%. I said they’ve got a shot at being the #4 player behind Samsung, Apple and Nokia (not necessarily in that order).

Although other vendors, such as HTC, have talked about building Windows Phone products, we all know that Nokia is the only true partner at this point. And it’s still early days in terms of understanding how this will all unfold.

Nokia’s big challenge is to migrate its customer base form a dying Symbian platform over to Windows Phone. That’s going to be a HUGE challenge in the developing markets, especially given the cost differential between cheap Symbian phones and expensive Windows powered phones. So it seems to me that Nokia could fall off the map here, ending up with much, much less market share than their current 19.8%.

Ideally, Microsoft would benefit form the support of more manufacturing partners. But if they can’t win more vendors over, they may as well buy Nokia and control their entire platform just as Apple and RIM do. For that matter, even Google is ready to fully control Android (via the Motorola acquisition) in the event that Samsung somehow moves to control its own platform.

I like Microsoft’s strategy of converging the user experience on mobile and desktop. It’s differentiated. Microsoft has always been a company who delivers great developer tools. Microsoft needs to win over developer momentum here, badly.

But, unfortunately, if either Microsoft of Nokia stumble here, the chances of Windows Phone becoming a dominant platform shrink significantly.

Nokia is still the # 2 global player in the mobile phone market. This is a good base on which to convert customers over to Windows Phones. But every quarter that Nokia bleeds share to the competition (mainly Android), the race gets much harder.

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Some mixed news coming out today from a survey of 2, 173 developers taken in late January by IDC and app tools maker Appcelerator. Developer interest in making apps for Windows Phone is at 37% which is just a 1% less than the previous report back in November--in other words, statistically it's the same.

That's good and bad. The good news is that RIM is continuing to plunge from 20% to less than 16% leaving Windows Phone to be the clear "number three" in the mobile OS space (when factoring out tablets). The bad news is even with the Lumia 800, developers are still not jumping on the Windows Phone bandwagon as expected (or needed). Despite this, Appcelerator says "interest remains high" for the freshman OS even in the face of unimpressive device sales to date.

The survey was conducted just days after the AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 was announced, so developer interest in that device had barely had anytime to register for this survey (not to mention it has not gone on sale yet). Only 18% of those surveyed were interested in developing for the Lumia devices, meaning Nokia still has some word to do to sway devs that Windows Phone is worth it.

Interest in Android, however, did slip from previous quarters which lead the researchers to conclude that there's a “small but steady erosion” in developing for that platform, perhaps a result of fragmentation and issues with getting devices on par with ICS. Meanwhile, iOS is holding steady from previous quarters.

In the end, this latest survey reinforces what we already know: iOS is number one and steady, Android is a strong number two but slowly eroding and Windows Phone is in a steady-state with under 40% of developer interest. What is needed is a game-changer and at this stage, Windows Phone 7 may not be it. But to quote Yoda, "there is another"...it's Windows Phone 8.

Source: Appcelerator; via: GigaOm, ZDNet, Reuters

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We've covered Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and its companion app before but for those who don't remember, Your Shape is a Xbox 360 Kinect title that helps you exercise and get fit. The corresponding companion app allowed you to track your progress, see your rankings, get Your Shape news, etc and it was a pretty nifty thing to have.

With the new year, UBI Soft released Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 for Kinect. That game is a big overhaul of the 2011 version with a new UI, many more exercises and just overall a much better experience (we picked up ours for $29 on Amazon.com, which was a steal). So it's nice to see that the companion app too received a makeover and we really like the changes:

  • Brand new design and accessibility improved.
  • Guest mode for players without a Uplay account.
  • Live Tile to display your current level and calories burned.
  • You will now be able to interact into the application: create, join and abandon current competitions

Nice changes indeed. The ability to create goals is quite useful and the Live Tile with calorie counter is a a great way to stay motivated. Look, we're not going to get all preachy about health, but if you have a Kinect you owe yourself to get this game (or any other Kinect fitness title) and really use your Xbox 360 to help better yourself as well as have fun. Having this Windows Phone tie-in makes it that much cooler and we hope we see more instances like this in 2012 (except for you, Dance Central 2--get back in the corner).

Pick up Your Shape here in the Marketplace for free. Check the official trailer for Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2012 after the break...

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It is hard to believe that HTC is having a rough year. After all, it seems like nearly every other day on Android Central a new phone of theirs is being released. Still, while they've shipped 25 million phones this year and their name is now well known, Samsung and Motorola have been grabbing the spotlight too, resulting in a less-than-stellar quarter in profits for smartphone manufacture. They're banking on a better year in 2012 where they estimate they'll ship 45 million phones and have some new "flagship" Android devices--devices which we already thought existed.

So why the sudden downturn? Over at PaidContent, they suggest two reasons:

  1. They're betting a lot on Android. With its cutthroat competition in Android hardware, banking on the lil' robot has high rewards as well as high risks. If you're a hit with consumers, you win big. But if you don't have a "killer device" that year, you can flounder. This is why Nokia went with Windows Phone--the competition was less one-upmanship and they could really stake their ground instead of being just another player.
  2. Patent costs. While Android once promised to be the "free OS" for OEMs in which they could reap pure profit, it turns out a lot customization to the OS by HTC in addition to the patent costs (due to Microsoft gaining licensing agreements with them) has hit their bottom line.

Of course this doesn't mean that Windows Phone will be their savior either, as our market share is still tiny. But perhaps if HTC starts putting more resources into that camp and growing the market, they could hedge off any looming Nokia threat. And yes, HTC should be very concerned with a looming Nokia, especially in the U.S. come 2012.

Source: PaidContent/Yahoo! Finance

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While release dates for the Nokia Windows Phone have never been set in stone, the strong school of thought has been to look at early 2012 for the Sea Ray to hit the market. This line of thought was confirmed recently. In an interview with the Australian website WP7R, when questioned about the release of the Sea Ray Nokia in Australia replied,

"We won't be releasing a Nokia on Windows Phone until Q1 of next year. Can't be more specific than that sorry!"

This joins the long line of indicators pointing to 2012 that include Nokia CEO Stephen Elop stating, "We'll be shipping in volume in 2012" and Nokia tweeting similar.  We still have the where and with whom that has to be answered.  Plus it would be nice if eventually the Q1 2012 time frame could be narrowed down a bit.

Regardless, this latest blip seems to confirm that Sea Ray fans still a have a bit of a wait to endure.

source: Wp7r  Thanks xlri for the tip!

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This is some pretty big news: it appears that HTC is getting in on the e-Book business. Watch out Apple iPad?

The latest version of Manila/Sense 2.5 (2012) features a tab dedicated to reading e-Books that can be purchased by Boarders or, evidently, though Adobe. No word on Amazon.com at this time.

HTC Reader 1.0 is the name of the program that will render the e-Books and overall it looks pretty great. It follows the usual UI/UX that HTC has laid out with their other tabs, which includes a directory for browsing, book art, and of course reading the book. There does seem to be some scrolling action needed, in addition.

The other big news is that this latest ROM comes from a Chinese Rhodium Shipped ROM.  To translate and as we mentioned in the last podcast, this is coming from a Touch Pro 2 ROM that is ready to market. That HTC, they never rest.

Does this mean the reason for the Sprint WM6.5 ROM update is taking so long is so they can get their hands on this version? We have no idea and zero indication that is the case, but that notion has at least entered the realm of plausible. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the mean time, you can expect some custom ROM action to start including this latest build as it spreads through out the community.

[Big thanks to tek818 for the screenshots & info!]

   

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