tour

The big news a few years ago was Microsoft was not going to do CES any longer, instead focusing on their own events like Build, which are better aligned with their product announcements.

But the truth is, they are here, taking meetings with their partners and press (see our interview with director of Windows Phone, Greg Sullivan). They even have a rather large showroom with just announced Windows 8.1 PCs, tablets, two-in-ones and various Windows Phone 8 devices.

Check out our behind the scenes video of Microsoft’s off-site showroom, including all of their wares. Video after the break!

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This morning, Microsoft continued to surprise us with two new releases for Windows Phone 8. Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps were released in tandem, augmenting current baked-in functions of their mobile OS.

The Xbox Music app is currently in ‘Preview’, meaning a final version won’t be due until 2014. Likewise, Xbox Video currently doesn’t support HD video playback or downloading, but a Microsoft spokesperson has confirmed that feature is coming next year.

How are the apps? Watch our video tour below to see them in action.

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The launch of Microsoft’s next gaming console, Xbox One, is right around the corner and the company is still suffering fallout from a poor launch event. Instead of judging the console from what you read online, wouldn’t it be great to see it in person? If you are in the New England area of the United States next week– you just might be in luck.

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You might know Autodesk for their 3D design tools like AutoCAD and Maya, or their game design middleware like Autodesk Scaleform. They also make a couple of Windows 8 apps for consumers: Sketchbook Express and FBX Review, which we discussed when it released back in July.

During my recent trip to San Francisco for Casual Connect, I stopped by the Autodesk Gallery for a quick visit. From a quiet corner of the Gallery, Wes Adams, Autodesk’s Games Industry and Product Marketing guy walked me through some of the cool things FBX Review can do. Head past the break for our hands on video, plus a photo tour of the Autodesk Gallery.

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Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference 2013 (abbreviated as WPC, not to be confused with Windows Phone Central) is currently going on at the spacious George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX. The yearly event focuses on Microsoft’s IT and Enterprise business, allowing companies designated as Microsoft Partners to come together for learning, networking, and much more.

A few weeks back, we reported that Microsoft would be making its Surface Pro and RT tablets available to WPC 2013 attendees at drastically discounted prices. Well, never let it be said that we don’t follow through on our news stories. Your friendly neighborhood Games Editor stopped by the first two days of the event and put the discount offer to the test. Find out if I succeeded and see lots of photographs from the show after the break!

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As you may have heard, AT&T today announced the Nokia Lumia 920 coming “in November” to the carrier. The phone will feature numerous colors including matte-black, yellow, red, white and of course cyan.

We know many of you have been wondering if the cyan is glossy or matte and the answer is the latter. Yup, it’s the same type of finish at the Lumia 800 and Lumia 900.

We’ll process some photos in a bit of our hands on but we will say this: the Lumia 920 did not at all feel too big or heavy. In fact, we barely noticed it. Our conclusion is that a lot of the concern over the size of the phone is completely unwarranted. In fact, with the smooth roundness of the back and the curved screen, we like it better than the current 900 design, which feels blocky by comparison. 

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We managed to spend some near and dear time with the recently announced HTC 8X and the HTC 8S. What can we say besides that we love the new look for HTC--bold colors, smooth designs, excellent screens--we see a bright and popular future for the new HTC series.

The HTC 8X features a 4.3" 720p display with a whopping 344ppi and a dual-core 1.5GHz, meanwhile the 8S features a more modest WVGA resolution but in an also outstanding design.

Don't believe us? Watch the video above and decide for yourself.

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Shake your booty with Zane Lowe and Nokia

Zane Lowe has announced an array of dates for his UK university tour, which kicks off in Lincoln tomorrow. The established DJ, who also currently hosts the BBC Radio 1 Evening Show, has partnered with Nokia to "connect" the tour. This is an opportunity for Nokia to work on promotion while we wait until recently announced hardware is available to consumers. 

The manufacturer has made it a strategic focus to tackle the issue with younger consumers turning away from Nokia. To aid this effort, the company has released (and continues to do so) Windows Phones with multiple themes available for more choice.

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AT&T Nokia Lumia 900 with the 8779 Tango update

Well after biting the bullet and factory-resetting our Lumia 900 with a ROM flash, we managed to update our glossy-white AT&T Lumia 900 to the official Tango update. That update is sitting in stand-by on Nokia’s servers, presumably waiting for AT&T to give the go to push out to the Zune servers so the rest of you can update.

Although you can manually do this yourself using a third-party program called Nokia Care Suite, you will factory-flash the phone meaning the device will be completely wiped—no saved games, no saved photos. In that regard, you may be best served by just waiting a few days (weeks?) for it to hit Zune where you can just update the phone and keep everything.

In the meantime, we sacrificed for your knowledge. In turn you can watch our video hands on after the break for our thoughts on the update in addition to our mini-review...

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Microsoft's Ben Rudolph is shown in Microsoft's latest video giving the new 7.8 Start screen a brief tour. The video was part of Microsoft's new 7.5/7.8 page which just covers some basic features that we already know about.

Call it damage control or Redmond genuinely being excited for the update, but the video featuring the Lumia 900 seems designed specifically to remind us that Nokia's flagship phone is alive and well. 

Nothing new is revealed in the video that we haven't seen already but with the recent faux-rumor that Microsoft would be building it's own phone (and then their denial at Information Week), Nokia needs as much positive spin as they can get. There is little doubt that the "no Windows Phone 8 for current phones" is hurting the Finnish quite hard, as their stock has dropped to a 16-year low, hovering at $2.16 a share.

Between Nokia's commitment to continually deploy new software (like this weekend's Play To and Camera Extras) plus the 7.8 update, we're not feeling too bad about the 900's status but clearly it has divided the community

The question though is how soon is this 7.8 update coming? Obviously it's still in testing though it doesn't look too far off either. Here's to hoping for end of the summer, at the latest.

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As a reminder, Microsoft in its continued quest to find the perfect name is rebranding its Live services this year. Yes, Live ID is going to Microsoft Account and that's after it had already used previous titles like Microsoft Wallet, Microsoft Passport, .NET Passport and Microsoft Passport Network. Phew.

When Live ID finally goes away and Hotmail, etc. get the re-launch is anyone's guess as well as what email address Microsoft will be offering. But for now, you can navigate to https://commerce.microsoft.com and take a gander.

The new Microsoft Account management screen is clean and simple

Logging in brings you to an all new account overview page where you can manage your services, payment options, subscriptions and view your transactions. Our verdict? It's nice. Simple, to the point and easy to make sense out of so kudos to Microsoft for the stripped down look.

Is this game changing? No...definitely not. But it's kind of interesting to see where Microsoft is going with this services revamp. Thanks, Joshua, for the tip

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The Windows Phone UK team has been busy taking the Dare to Live challenge on tour throughout the UK. They first began the challenge marathon at Westfield in London and has since arrived in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Birmingham, Newcastle and Sheffield, challenging the public to see if their smartphone can beat a Windows Phone at common tasks. From uploading a photo to Facebook to publishing a status update to social networks.

The team were also present at the Into live music event, which took place at Proud Camden last night in London. So, how about some statistics? According to the team, they've enjoyed a 98% win rate with 22,782 wins under the belt, accompanied by 568 losses (similar to the Smoked By Windows Phone competition's). A week breakdown is also available under the graph.

Not too shabby, eh? Check out the calendar for details as to where the team will be next, we'll revisit the Dare to Live campaign once it's finished in July.

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Although we're not expecting too much more in terms of new Windows Phones for the next few months, Nokia is just getting the Lumia 610 into people's hands in various countries or unlocked for those who want it.

The Lumia 610 is Nokia's device for emerging markets and thus features lower specs than most users are accustomed to, in turn they are able to keep the price down, hovering below $300 contract-free.

We just had ours show up on our doorstep so we figured we would give you a quick tour. While plastic throughout the device comes in four colors including black, cyan, magenta and white, giving it quite a nice appeal. Truth be told, while it lacks the ClearBlack screen (but it does have Gorilla Glass), it's a nimble little guy and quite impressive for those who can spring for the higher-end Lumias.

Featuring a 3.7" screen, 256MB of RAM (ala "Tango"), a 5MP camera and 8GB of storage (5.59 GB available), the 610 is not particularly mind-blowing, especially with its Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 7227A  800MHz CPU, which just gets it by in terms of performance.

The bigger story of course is that this phone allows Nokia to push down into the rapidly expanding emerging markets of the world, someplace where Apple can't go but Android has with a vengeance (the quality also drops rapidly on the latter on such low-end hardware). Will the 610 be successful? All in all, it's so far not a bad experience and we imagine for many, this will be a solid Windows Phone introduction.

We'll have more over the next week on this device, so pay attention to Windows Phone Central.

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A lot of hay has been made over Windows Phone "Tango" aka CR3/build 8773 of Microsoft's mobile OS. The update contains a lot of minor things and is mostly focused on compatibility with 256MB devices for emerging markets and low-cost Windows Phones.

Nokia is hard at work with updating their ROMs for all Lumia phones and in fact if you use Navifirm to check, the Lumia 710 and 800 are getting heavily populated with new Tango updates, presumably being readied for roll-out in June.

We grabbed one of those ROM, OS 8773 with firmware 12120 from Mexican carrier Telcel to see what it has on board. Presumably, these changes you see in the above video will also be on the Lumia 800 and 900 ROMs as well, so consider this a sneak peek. Here is what's new:

  • Call forwarding - forward your calls to a designated number for (1) all calls (2) when I don't answer (3) when I am busy (4) when my phone is turned off
  • Call waiting - enable/disable
  • SMS delivery confirmation* - on/off
  • MMS delivery confirmation* - on/off
  • SMS Character set - Reduced (no accents, standard SMS) or Full
  • Send MMS acknowledgement* - on/off
  • Internet Sharing (aka WiFi tethering)
  • Enhanced MMS - Send voice notes, multiple images, video
  • Nokia branded Marketplace icon

As you can see, some of those features are pretty great (especially Internet Sharing) but they're also not necessarily "must have" items either, making Tango a minor update, something we've been emphasizing for some time now. Still, Nokia has done a nice job here and we expect T-Mobile to roll this out sometime in June officially (just a guess).

Some of you may wonder if the OS feels any different (faster, smoother, etc.) and to our eyes, no, it feels exactly the same. Perhaps there are some optimizations here and there but we really didn't notice it. We should also note the MMS issues we had in the video are probably due to this not being a T-Mobile ROM and more over, Nokia pulled their Network app to be fixed  (it'll be back soon) so we can't configure our MMS gateway for T-Mobile.

If you have any questions, ask away in comments. And yes, we'll see about whipping up a tutorial on how loaded Tango on our T-Mobile phone for you 'leet hackrz out there.

* Items with asterisk were not covered in video

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We mentioned how this morning version 2.3 of the official Facebook app should be going live today and true to their word, it has.

The new version brings a complete redesign of the UI as can be seen above in some new screenshots. The panorama look makes the app more Metro friendly and more importantly, it adds much more functionality like the ability to see and add "likes" to posts. There's also a refined tool bar at the bottom with quick access to Check in, Add (post) or quickly add/take a new photo.

In addition, you now have access to pages, groups, feed filters, privacy information and banner images. Speed of the app seems on par with before and we're hoping for more reliable notifications (always a tricky issue that is more Facebook than Windows Phone).

So far it looks to be a solid and respectable update, something many of you have been wanting for months now--so are you satisfied? Hit us up in comments...

Pick up the official Facebook app version 2.3 here in the Marketplace (and watch our video tutorial on how to force the update).

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Live in the US? Live near New York City, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles or San Francisco? Then you'll want to head over here to the Windows Phone Facebook page to reserve yourself a spot, as Microsoft is set to throw two-night parties in those cities to celebrate the launch of some new Windows Phones.

Free drinks, live music from some indie bands and a chance to see and play with the the HTC Radar, Titan, Samsung Focus S and Flash. There will be food, a lounge and a chance to play others in video games, which sounds like a grand old time, if you ask us.

And yes, at least some of us will be attending (cough, me, New York City), so perhaps we'll see you there. But reserve now as space is limited! You will need a Facebook account though.

Bonus cool feature: You can send your e-Ticked to your Windows Phone, which you use to get into the event.

Bonus cool feature 2: First 20 registrants for each night get a VIP upgrade...go go!

Source: Windows Phone Blog, Windows Phone Facebook page

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Well, who says Microsoft isn't trying? Between the ads, TV show placements, developer out reach and evidently now putting the phone "on tour", Microsoft at least seems to be trying to get the word out.

From March 16th to May 7th, they'll be going around France giving demos of the phone and even raffling off an HD7 to a few lucky peeps. We suppose it's a good idea that can't hurt, but lets see if it drums up sales.

Source: Microsoft France; via Monsmartpone

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Microsoft this morning published a new app called Windows Phone Insider to the Marketplace. The tiny app is a great starting point for those new to the Windows Phone world though numerous features and tutorials. Here's what it can do:

  • Top picks - most popular apps in a genre (this week appears to be fitness)
  • Wallpapers - pulls down Bing images for use as wallpaper (nice)
  • Follow Us - Latest Facebook and Twitter posts from Windows Phone
  • Tour - short web tutorials on how to use your phone/make the most of it

The app is actually really slick and the Bing wallpapers feature is huge for many--it'swell worth the free download just for that option. Of course, we couldn't help but think this would be great on the phone to begin with, which makes us think that with the upcoming software update, you'll see this stock on your device after that first flash. Anyone wanna bet?

You can grab the app here in the Marketplace; Thanks, David M., for letting us know!

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While this isn't a whole lot of 'new' in this video series, it's still quite informative and easily one of the best quality videos we've seen (Hello full HD and multiple angles! Too bad about the audio difficulties...).

In this series shot by www.magnus.de (Weka Media Publishing GmbH, Germany), Greg Sullivan, Senior Product Manager Windows Phone, goes through and gives a tour of Windows Phone 7 while talking up the philosophy behind it quite a bit. It's nearly a half-hour in total length, so it's broken up into four parts:

Part 1: Design, usage, the idea behind hubs
Part 2: The peoples hub, social networking
Part 3: The pictures hub, office hub, games hub
Part 4: Zune, voice command, Bing integration, strategy

At the very least, it certainly qualifies for phone pr0n and if you have time to kill at work today, take a looksy.

All four parts loaded after the break!

[Thanks, Stephen M, for the tip!]

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