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When it comes to running a small business, any help is good help. Spending time on trivial matters like getting your email up and running or making sure you can access the documents you need whenever and from wherever you need them, are time wasters.

To help out small business owners on their track to success, Microsoft has partnered with one of the web’s top platforms, GoDaddy. The partnership promises to integrate the easy to use and reliable Office 365 service without making web owners get down and dirty with technical details.

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Microsoft has never really had a strong hand in the social network cookie jar; Windows Live spaces and Socl can both be regarded as failures in comparison to the big dogs like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. According to Bloomberg New Tech Reporter, Dina Bass, the company may be looking to change that as she reported that "Mcrosoft talks with Foursquare about a strategic investment are said to be at an advanced stage".

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The trusty New York Times just ran a nice behind-the-acquisiton piece on Microsoft on Skype discussing how the deal is panning out between the two companies. The article is mostly positive but it does of course address a few shortcomings of the MS-Skype deal that haven't materialized so far.

Windows Phone users are no stranger to the current limitations on the Skype app for Windows Phone, specifically the inability to receive calls or messages in the background. We outlined why such a system can be problematic for the mobile OS in a separate piece though it still doesn't alleviate disappointment for those wanting a richer VOIP experience.

Addressing that criticism, a Skype spokesman told the New York Times that such a shortcoming would be addressed in a future version of the software. While certainly positive sounding it still leaves many questions for us. For instance are we still talking about on Windows Phone 7.x or Windows Phone 8? Is there a distinction between the two development branches? What about devices like the Nokia Lumia 610 who can't run Skype? And of course, when will said update come?

At least from the tone it seems Skype and Microsoft are well aware of the criticism and plan to remedy them sometime in the future.  Some other noteworthy tidbits

  • Skype client for Xbox 360 is not expected this year (though we bet we'll hear more on that next week at E3 in Los Angeles. We'll be there to cover it.)
  • Microsoft will integrate Skype into Lync
  • Nokia is in talks with carriers about ways to bundle Nokia Windows Phones with Skype and "lucrative high-speed data plans"
  • Ballmer is quoted as saying that Skype has not hurt Windows Phone (with the carriers) and that those carriers know "...the future of communications doesn’t look like the present of communications"

From our own conversations with Microsoft and Skype employees, we gather that the big hold up are the technical challenges presented with Skype's infrastructure. In essence, it's a bit of a mess from an engineering perspective and Microsoft-Skype need to walk cautiously when updating and reconfiguring the network.

We'll see more of this partnership pay off in late 2012 and early 2013 as Microsoft rolls out Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 but until then, we're expecting baby-steps. And so should you.

Source: The New York Times

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Today Nokia has announced that their mapping data, specifically traffic info and geocoding ability (more on that in a bit) is powering Microsoft's Bing Mapping services. While this collaboration has been in the works since the Nokia-Microsoft partnership was announced, we're now seeing the results of it.

In short, if you launch your Bing Maps (either on the web or your Windows Phone) and enable Traffic, you'll notice two things right away:

  1. New color codes - green, yellow and red (maybe black?)
  2. More detail - Where once only major roads have it, now we're seeing our local streets with live traffic data

Nokia is now offering what was before only available in their Nokia Maps app to everyone who uses Bing. What's more, that info is available in 24 countries including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, UK and US.

Besides traffic, there's also geocoding which is something that's very important and here's why: geocoding algorithms take latitude and longitude information and connect them to a "readable address"--basically that whole ability to translate your GPS coordinates into a usable street number and name. Many apps use it, including what powers Foursquare or any app that sends your location e.g. WhatsApp. In theory now, it should be more accurate and help with directions too.

All in all this is great news for everyone on Windows Phone and anyone who uses Bing. We're looking forward to more of this Nokia-Microsoft partnership.

Read more at Nokia Conversations

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This morning, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Barnes & Noble for their eReader business having settled the previous litigation on claimed patent infringement.

The new subsidiary of Barnes & Noble called Newco (not the real name, just a placeholder to be determined later) will focus on the digital and college business of the company. Microsoft is investing $300 million into the venture and will maintain a 17.6% equity stake in the new company.

Of course it should come as no surprise that a NOOK eReader will be one of the first priorities of the nw partnership with a client for Windows 8 in the works. Barnes & Noble commented on the newly announced deal noting:

“The formation of Newco and our relationship with Microsoft are important parts of our strategy to capitalize on the rapid growth of the NOOK business, and to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments,” said William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “Microsoft’s investment in Newco, and our exciting collaboration to bring world-class digital reading technologies and content to the Windows platform and its hundreds of millions of users, will allow us to significantly expand the business.”

Although lots of pundits like to criticize Microsoft for "patent trolling" others would claim that the company is looking out for their shareholder's interest by defending what they see as their intellectual property. Despite this, some saw in B&N as standing up to Microsoft, fighting them publicly in the matter. Instead, B&N made a deal with the devil perhaps even angering Google along the way (Android powers the new Nook eReader).

Either way, Microsoft's strategy seems to be paying off for although B&N does not have to admit any guilt for the claimed violations, they clearly were forced to the table for what looks to be an exciting deal for both companies. In fact, this could be the lifeline the fading book retailer needs in its life and death struggle with adversary

No mention of a Windows Phone client has been announced which has been missing since Windows Mobile and the HTC HD2. However, rumors suggest that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are based on the same kernel and have large amounts of overlapping code. As a result the announcement of a Windows 8 client may in fact be a dual one for Windows Phone.

Regardless, you can imagine B&N will be getting some favorable treatment from Microsoft in the future. Something that Apple and Google will have trouble in matching. For this, we' very excited by this deal (even if we're Kindle fans here).

Full press release after the break...

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We don't recall seeing this at the insanity that was Mobile World Congress, but evidently on February 27th, Good Technology, who focuses on enterprise and security (and who used to be owned by Motorola) announced a partnership with Nokia to bring their "FIPS-certified 192 bit AES encryption and end-to-end mobile messaging" service to Lumia Windows Phones.

The service is set to roll out in Q2 2012, which means we should see this very soon. The press release goes on to detail the features coming to the Windows Phone app, which by the sounds of it will be only available in the Nokia Collection through the Marketplace:

"Employees will be able to access corporate email, contacts, and calendars through the Good for Enterprise application on their Nokia Windows Phone smartphones—just as they access Microsoft Outlook® or Lotus Notes® on desktop computers at the office—using the intuitive user interface with panorama and pivot views with which they are already be familiar. IT managers will be able to protect corporate data with data encryption and easy-to-apply policies, such as requiring passwords and preventing 'cut/copy/paste' capabilities from the Good for Enterprise app. They will also be able to establish role-based policies using web-based management tools and perform remote wipe of enterprise information only, leaving music, photos, and other personal data present elsewhere on an employee's mobile device intact in the event the mobile device is compromised, lost or stolen."

A big gap in Windows Phone services is actually in enterprise, specifically the lack of encryption on the device or secure, non-Exchange based messaging. Unfortunately, while many in IT departments want more advanced features on current Windows Phones, there seems to be no plans for an "enterprise update" for Windows Phone 7. Instead, Microsoft is putting off a major refocusing on this area till Windows Phone 8, expected in late 2012 (rollout early 2013) including 128-bit native BitLocker data encryption.

While Windows Phone 8 looks promising, this partnership with Nokia for the Lumia 710, 800 and 900 devices will offer a nice stop-gap for mid 2012 and another reason to "go Nokia". Combined with AT&T's recent secure-messaging software for Windows Phones, Lumia 900 owners will have no less than three enterprise-focused messaging solutions: AT&T's, Good Technology and of course Exchange. We think that's a pretty killer combo for IT departments.

Read the full press release after the break...Thanks, bilzkh, for the tip!

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Toshiba is breaking up with Fujitsu

While not earth shattering news, it's worth mentioning that the honeymoon between Toshiba and Fujitsu appears to be over, with Toshiba packing up and going home. This as both companies are on the cusp of launching the imaginative and unique IS12T running Windows Phone "Mango". While that launch will of course go forward, what this means is that for 2012, Fujitsu is preparing to buy out Toshiba's nearly 20% stake in the joint venture, going solo afterwards.

Here in the West, this won't really mean too much as Fujitsu will still carry on and they are even reportedly doing pretty well. At least for bloggers and tech journalists, we can save a few keystrokes in the future instead of having to write Toshiba-Fujitsu every time. Yay.

Source: 47News; via Engadget

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And that's that.

Today, Nokia and Microsoft sealed the deal of the decade (in our eyes, at least) finalizing Nokia's commitment to the Windows Phone platform. Not bad for two months.

The good news is that not only was the deal finalized ahead of schedule, but work by Nokia in cranking out their first Windows Phones is progressing rapidly--however, Microsoft is still projecting "volume device shipments in 2012" but they also note in another blog post "the pressure is on for first delivery in 2011",

Nokia and Microsoft also announced significant progress on the development of the first Nokia products incorporating Windows Phone. With hundreds of personnel already engaged on joint engineering efforts, the companies are collaborating on a portfolio of new Nokia devices. Nokia has also started porting key applications and services to operate on Windows Phone and joint outreach has begun to third party application developers.

Some other highlights from the announcement are not really knew, but at least offer some clarification:

  • Nokia will leverage mapping, navigation, language support and work on cameras; Microsoft gives Nokia Bing, gaming, ecosystem
  • Windows Phone developer registration free for all Nokia developers.
  • Nokia will open a new app store for all their software, including Windows Phone, giving their devs easy access to all of Nokia's customers
  • Nokia will also leverage their operator billing, expanding Microsoft's reach

There is also the bit about Microsoft receiving royalty payments from Nokia starting with their first phones shipped and Nokia receiving payments from Microsoft "measured in the billions of dollars" i.e. things we've heard earlier. While a delay or roadblock was not really expected between the two giants, it's great to see the partnership finally cemented.

Now lets see some phones already. Entire Press Release after the break

Source: Microsoft 

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Nokia CEO (and former Microsoft bigwig), Stephen Elop has told Reuters that they are "right now, today, having people work on the first Windows Phone devices from Nokia." This comes just over a month after the partnership between Nokia and Microsoft was announced. [Edit: Though at Mobile World Congress, it was revealed that Nokia and Microsoft had been working together for "months" already at the engineering level]

When asked about a possible acquistion of Nokia by his former company, Elop sounded doubtful, saying:

 I’m not aware of a strategic interest that Microsoft would have in the rest of the business.

To the extent that a partnership has been formed around what they’re really interested in, then what would an acquisition bring other than a good year of anti-trust investigation, huge turmoil, delays?

Elop hopes to see a Nokia hadnset by the end of the year, but had previously stated that they would realistically be "be shipping in volume in 2012.” Despite falling stock prices and unhappy workers walking out after the announcement, we are excited to see what the two technology giants' partnership produces. Until that time, we only have some concpets dreamed up by Nokia and their fans.

Source: Reuters; Via: TechCrunch

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Today was a big day for LG as they announced their LG Optimus 3D Android phone and 8.9" Android Tablet. Of course, you can head to AndroidCentral for that info. During the Q&A part of the press conference though, someone in the audience asked LG's President and CEO Dr. Jong-Seok Park what he thought of Microsoft's new alliance with Nokia and what it means for LG.

Jong-Seok Park's response was borderline non-answer, but he did emphasize that LG plans to continue with Microsoft and that won't change. And in more of a boast or challenge, Jong-Seok said about Nokia (paraphrasing) "Lets see what they can do".

The question was pointed but also significant. If we flash back exactly two years ago, it was here at Mobile World Congress where LG was named as a key partner for Windows Phone, with the promise of 50 phones at one point. Since then, LG seems to have scaled things back quite a bit, to say the least. In fact, Asymco has done a nice job of detailing the history of announced and celebrated "partnerships" with Microsoft that have gone to sour, dissipate or never realize their promise. The list includes Palm, Motorola, Nortel, Erricson and others. This now seems to the be the case with LG, who's Optimus 7 and Quantum, while both respectable phones, have failed to garner the attention that the Samsung Focus has.

What was even more telling was at the LG display section on the main floor--which included TVs, their Android Optimus-series, tablets and even "feature" phones, there wasn't a single LG Windows Phone on display. (Or if so, it was well hidden).

One thing that is evident from today is that LG are doing way, way more in terms of hardware with their Android line. The LG Optimus 3D has dual core, dual memory and a dual camera for shooting in 3D. With a 4.3" screen, the device is quite the achievement and believe it or not, the glasses-free 3D ain't too shabby.  Unfortunately when you see all the new "super" phones with Android, you realize how stagnant Windows Phone 7 starts to look--Microsoft is not yet in the business of pushing harware technology.

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We mentioned yesterday that Microsoft was spearheading a hardware engineering team for Windows Phone--to expedite development in new mobile hardware, almost like their own R&D department for phones. That addition gives Microsoft an interesting ability to better control the future and direction of hardware for their OEMs by basically getting their foot in the door on developing mobiles.

Flash forward a whole day and we have Nokia and Microsoft merging their smartphone strategies. As has been pointed out, this is not "Nokia is now an OEM for Windows Phone" but much deeper, more substantial. Nokia's services will run into Microsoft's, Microsoft's will mix with Nokia's and more importantly, Nokia will have a say in the direction of Windows Phone. From the joint open-letter: "Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone." Yowza.

In a New York Times article, is was pointed out that both Google and Microsoft were throwing money at Nokia to commit:

To get Nokia to switch, Google and Microsoft are offering hundreds of millions of dollars worth of engineering assistance and marketing support, according to a person who has done consulting for the company and was told of the talks.

What caught our eye was the whole engineering assistance, which sounds a lot like what the new Hardware Group of Microsoft's Mobile Communication Business (MCB) department is all about.  Reader Henripple pretty much caught this yesterday in comments, suggesting that this may be the groundwork to speed up that Nokia agreement and  get devices to market, faster.

On a related note, Ina Fried at All things D is live-blogging the event and when asked, Nokia CEO Elop said this about device availability: "We’ll be shipping in volume in 2012" so we have some time yet before we see a device, though we imagine by "holiday 2011" we'll definitely see some devics about to launch.

And on the much controversial issue of tablets:

“We are not announcing today a specific tablet strategy,” he reiterated, saying that Microsoft creates opportunities.

Elop noted that there are rumors of Windows Phone and Windows that could power tablets.

“We could do that,” he said. “We might do that.”

Also an opportunity for Nokia to step back into the game using its own software.

Certainly intriguing and we hope both companies come up with a solid strategy here.

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The rumors have been swirling for days but this morning it was official announced by both companies that Nokia will be adopting Windows Phone 7. In a joint open letter, both companies spelled out what the partnership means--let it be clear it's as big as it is deep--this is not just Nokia using Bing but a whole agreement in a virtual merger on smartphone strategy:

The core of the decision is for Nokia to use Windows Phone as its primary smartphone OS, with MeeGo going to the back-burner (but living on). The OVI store will merge with Microsoft's Marketplace, Bing will be on all Nokia services and Nokia wil provide mapping data for Bing.

The combination of Nokia, who's the largest cell phone maker (by volume) and Microsoft should create quite the juggernaut and gives Windows Phone the gravitas it needs to be taken more seriously (by consumers, carriers and the market). Indeed, this changes everything today. Will it pay off? Who knows, but we're happier with this decision than without it.

Why not Android? According to Nokia CEO Elop:

We explored the opportunity with the Google ecosystem. We would have had difficulty differentiating within that ecosystem, and so Microsoft represented the best opportunity to build and lead and fight through with a new ecosystem.

Have they started collaborating on a device yet? From Ballmer:

We’re already working together to create the first Nokia Windows phones and you’ll hear more from us in all of those areas in the next weeks and months.

When? “We’ll be shipping in volume in 2012”, varying price points -Elop (via AllThingsD)

(Quote via via ElectricPig; part 2)

After the break, see the full official strategy between the two companies as outlined in their "open letter" and video...

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So the rumor of the day is something about Nokia making a phone featuring Windows Phone 7. The source, Times Online, mentions this tidbit in passing in a general article about British tech companies stating:

Wolfson suffered a blow in 2008 after it lost a contract to supply components for the Apple iPod. However, some of the pain was lessened last year after it was selected by a leading mobile phone manufacturer — believed to be Nokia — to provide some of the technology for its new Windows Mobile handset.

Yeah, that's not really much to go on. Does anyone really think Nokia, who has been quite happy with the Symbian OS, would do such a thing? Then again, Palm did it a few years ago with some initial success. But there's an important difference: Palm was desperate (having lost control of Garnet), Nokia...not so much.

We should also mention that Microsoft and Nokia did just announce a partnership, with Nokia agreeing to distribute Microsoft's 'Communicator Mobile' a "...unified communications client connects directly with a company's communications systems for mobile collaboration". While certainly a great move for both companies, that really doesn't get us to "ZOMG, Nokia is making a Windows Phone!".

What we think: Microsoft and Nokia are certainly working closely together to dislodge RIM, but to suggest they are swingers with their OS's is a bit of stretch.

[Times Online & Nokia Experts]


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