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Fresh Windows, but Where’s the Start Button?


Over the years, Keith McCarthy has become used to a certain way of doing things on his personal computers, which, like most others on the planet, have long run on Microsoft’s Windows software.
Source: Microsoft.com
Microsoft's Windows 8 new interface

But last week, when he got his hands on a laptop running the newest version of Windows for the first time, Mr. McCarthy was flummoxed.
Many of the familiar signposts from PCs of yore are gone in Microsoft’s new software, Windows 8, like the Start button for getting to programs and the drop-down menus that list their functions.
It took Mr. McCarthy several minutes just to figure out how to compose an e-mail message in Windows 8, which has a stripped-down look and on-screen buttons that at times resemble the runic assembly instructions for Ikea furniture.
“It made me feel like the biggest amateur computer user ever,” said Mr. McCarthy, 59, a copywriter in New York.
Windows, which has more than a billion users around the world, is getting a radical makeover, a rare move for a product with such vast reach. The new design is likely to cause some head-scratching for those who buy the latest machines when Windows 8 goes on sale this Friday.
To Microsoft and early fans of Windows 8, the software is a fresh, bold reinvention of the operating system for an era of touch-screen devices like the iPad, which are reshaping computing. Microsoft needs the software to succeed so it can restore some of its fading relevance after years of watching the likes of Apple and Google outflank it in the mobile market.
To its detractors, though, Windows 8 is a renovation gone wrong, one that will needlessly force people to relearn how they use a device every bit as common as a microwave oven.
“I don’t think any user was asking for that,” said John Ludwig, a former Microsoft executive who worked on Windows and is now a venture capitalist in the Seattle area. “They just want the current user interface, but better.”
Mr. Ludwig said Microsoft’s strategy was risky, but it had to do something to improve its chances in the mobile business: “Doing nothing was a strategy that was sure to fail.”
Little about the new Windows will look familiar to those who have used older versions. The Start screen, a kind of main menu, is dominated by a colorful grid of rectangles and squares that users can tap with a finger or click with a mouse to start applications. Many of these so-called live tiles constantly flicker with new information piped in from the Internet, like news headlines and Facebook photos.
What is harder to find are many of the conventions that have been a part of PCs since most people began using them, like the strip of icons at the bottom of the screen for jumping between applications. The mail and calendar programs are starkly minimalist. It is as if an automaker hid the speedometer, turn signals and gear shift in its cars, and told drivers to tap their dashboards to reveal those functions. There is a more conventional “desktop” mode for running Microsoft Office and older programs, though there is no way to permanently switch to it.
Microsoft knew in the summer of 2009 that it wanted to shake up Windows. It held focus groups and showed people prototypes of the tile interface and its live updates.
“We would get this delightful reaction of people who would say, ‘This is so great, and it has Office too,’ ” said Jensen Harris, Microsoft’s director of program management for the Windows user experience.
Sixteen million people have been using early versions of the software. The boldness of the changes has delighted some users, who say they believe that for the first time, the company is taking greater creative risks than its more celebrated rival, Apple.
“I think it’s functional, clean,” said Andries van Dam, a pioneer in computer graphics and a Brown University computer science professor, who receives research money from Microsoft. “I welcome it.”
Younger users may be more likely to embrace the new approach. Joanna Lin, 23, who works in sales and marketing for a hotel chain in New York, said she was impressed with the software. “The feeling was very fluid,” said Ms. Lin, who was the most enthusiastic of five people that The New York Times asked to briefly try Windows 8 last week. “Definitely a step up from Windows 7.”
But the product is a major gamble for Microsoft, a company whose clout in the technology industry has been waning. The PC business, which generates much of Microsoft’s revenue, is in a severe slump as newer products like smartphones and tablets take more dollars from peoples’ wallets.
To help it gain traction in the mobile market, Microsoft made Windows 8 a one-size-fits-all operating system for touch-screen tablets, conventional computers with keyboards and mice, and newer devices that combine elements of both. (Confusingly, Microsoft is also introducing a separate but similar operating system, Windows RT, that cannot run older programs.)
Apple took the opposite approach with the Mac and mobile devices like the iPad, which have distinct interfaces, albeit with some shared technologies. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has said of Microsoft’s strategy: “You can converge a toaster and refrigerator, but these things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user.”
Jakob Nielsen, a user interface expert at the Nielsen Norman Group, conducted tests with four people who used a traditional computer running Windows 8 and found that they had “a lot of struggles” with the new design. Mr. Nielsen said they appeared to become especially confused when shifting back and forth between the modern Windows 8 mode and the desktop mode.
Mr. Nielsen said Windows 8 was more suitable for tablet computers with their smaller displays, but it was not helpful for workers who needed to have lots of applications visible at once.
“I just think when it comes to the traditional customer base, the office computer user, they’re essentially being thrown under the bus,” Mr. Nielsen said.
Microsoft disputes this idea. Mr. Harris said most test users did not have trouble juggling the two modes — and regardless, workers were more likely to operate in desktop mode if they wanted to see many applications simultaneously.
Microsoft is convinced that most people will quickly become accustomed to Windows 8. But to help ease the transition, the software offers tutorials when it is first started up. And Microsoft is spending more than $500 million on a marketing campaign that is partly intended to familiarize people with the new design.
Mr. Harris said the company needed to modernize Windows for the way people use computers today: “We’re not surprised people have a strong reaction to it.”
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Verizon clarifies: You can keep your unlimited data plan, unless you buy a new subsidized device


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Verizon has issued a statement to The New York Times which clarifies what will happen with ‘grandfathered’ unlimited data plans when its new shared data plans roll out. Basically, anyone who currently has an unlimited data plan will be able to keep it, unless they purchase a new device that is subsidized by Verizon.
The full statement that was issued is below:
  • Customers will not be automatically moved to new shared data plans. If a 3G or 4G smartphone customer is on an unlimited plan now and they do not want to change their plan, they will not have to do so.
  • When we introduce our new shared data plans, Unlimited Data will no longer be available to customers when purchasing handsets at discounted pricing.
  • Customers who purchase phones at full retail price and are on an unlimited smartphone data plan will be able to keep that plan.
  • The same pricing and policies will be applied to all 3G and 4GLTE smartphones.
The key point here is that if you pay full price for your handset, usually several hundred dollars more than the ’2-year-contract’ subsidized price, you can keep your unlimited data plan. Of course, if you switch to LTE, then you’re going to need to sign up for a new plan so you’ll be forced to move on there too.
So, as long as you buy a full-priced handset, and you’re content to stick around on 3G, you can keep your unlimited plan. But if you want Verizon to foot part of the bill for your new handset, or you want to move up to a new 4G LTE connection, you’ll be forced to give your old plan up.
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Following Apple defection rumors, Samsung reportedly launched new mobile memory chips earlier than planned


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Samsung has reportedly been forced to push forward the launch of its new 20-nanometer mobile memory chips to calm shareholder fears it lost a major contract to supply DRAM chips to Apple.
According to various unnamed Samsung executives, speaking with The Korea Times, the new 4GB ultra-thin memory chips are going to be used in Apple devices, despite reports that its rival had shifted part of its supply chain to Japanese company Elpida.
Digitimes claimed that Apple had placed orders for around 50 percent of the Elpida’s output of its Hiroshima factory, forcing Samsung’s share prices down 2 percent to a two-month low in morning trading, stripping more than $10 billion off its market cap.
Samsung’s press release, which hit earlier this morning, is said to have been scheduled for this coming Monday,  but had been brought forward to ease concerns of an Apple-Elpida partnership.
Here’s the key take-away from the article in The Korean Times:
Samsung is increasing the output of mobile DRAMs using a finer 36-nanometer processing technology for Apple as planned. It doesn’t have plans to reduce production of the chips,’’ said another senior Samsung executive in a telephone interview with The Korea Times.
The report from Taiwan is exaggerated. Apple is always looking to diversify its part-sourcing channels. In flat screens and chips, Apple is sourcing parts from various clients that include Samsung, however, that doesn’t mean we are losing our edge as Apple’s top-tier client,’’ said the executive.
The reliability of The Korea Times has been called into question before, with quotes often taken out of context. However, the news outlet does tie official press releases with quotes from what it calls Samsung’s executives, lending a little more credibility to its report.
Apple’s continued reliance on Samsung components is almost certainly down to the Korean company’s reliability and scale. The two companies are currently locked in patent lawsuits around the world but Samsung is one of the only memory makers that is able to fulfil such a large number of semiconductor orders from a large client like Apple.
Elpida may well have secured new orders (it is already an Apple partner), but Samsung isn’t taking any chances. When it comes down to production, Apple will be careful to ensure it can fill its supply chain instead of cutting ties with major partners and threatening the availability of its products.
If true, Samsung’s decision to move forward its launch shows the effect Apple has on the component market. Not even the Korean electronics giant can afford to miss a trick.
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Apple’s new iPhone to feature 4-inch display, start production in June: Report


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Working with the mindset that an Apple rumour isn’t confirmed until the Wall Street Journal comments on it, a new report from the newspaper has suggested the company will finally increase the display size of its next-generation iPhone to 4 inches.
Update: Reuters has provided its own confirmation: “The new iPhone screens will measure 4 inches from corner to corner,” according to its sources.
The WSJ says that the smartphone will be increased from its traditional 3.5-inch design, according to its sources, and will begin production in June with the view to a launch later this year:
Apple Inc., which is expected to launch its next-generation iPhone later this year, has ordered screens from its Asian suppliers that are bigger than the ones used in iPhones since they debuted in 2007, people familiar with the situation said.
Production is set to begin next month for the screens, which measure at least 4 inches diagonally compared with 3.5 inches on the iPhone 4S, the latest phone from Apple, the people said.
Here’s what we believe a bigger iPhone could look like:
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The report is somewhat contradictory with its statements that Apple is “trying to make its popular smartphone more appealing amid intensifying competition from rival Samsung.”
Further down the article the WSJ quotes an analyst as saying that a new iPhone with a larger screen “wouldn’t mean that Apple is making changes because of what its rivals are doing.”
We are more inclined to agree with Mizuho Investors Securities analyst Nobuo Kurahashi:
“The smartphone market has become diverse, but the iPhone still sets the agenda,” with the whole industry watching Apple’s every move, he said. He said that the iPhone’s strength lies in the overall experience including its user interface and applications, and the screen’s size wouldn’t be its defining feature.
“If Apple ever released a lower-priced iPhone, that would be more of a sign that the changing market environment is beginning to affect the company,” he added.
Apple’s new displays are set to be supplied by LG, Sharp, and Japan Display (a Sony, Hitachi, and Toshiba joint-venture).
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Nokia Lumia 900 gains regulatory radio clearance in China, tipped for June release


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Nokia is moving closer to the launch its Lumia 900 smartphone in China, after the State Radio Regulation Committee (SRRC) cleared the device for use in the country, as reports suggest the device could go on sale in June.
The Lumia 900 was approved for use on domestic GSM and WCDMA networks on April 18, in accordance with Ministry of Information Industry, which is set to issue a network license for the device, providing Nokia with the necessary clearance to list and sell the handset in China.
According to Chinese news portal Sina Tech, the device will first launch in the Phillippines on May 18, with sales set to begin in China in June.
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Nokia launched the Lumia 900 in the US with AT&T at the start of April, seeing steady sales across its North American channels.
The Finnish company has since rolled out the device in the UK, hoping to pick up on the 2 million+ Lumia smartphone sales it has enjoyed to date.
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Apple’s next iPhone will feature a new design worked on by Steve Jobs, and a bigger screen


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The next iPhone, whatever it might be called, will feature an ‘overhauled’ look, including a screen larger than the current 3.5″, according to a report from Bloomberg’s Adam Satariano and Jun Yang. According to their sources, the redesigned phone was worked on ‘closely’ by Steve Jobs prior to his death last year.
Apple has apparently already placed orders from suppliers in Asia for screens that are bigger than the current screen in the iPhone, which measures 3.5″. This device is said to feature a complete design change, the first since the iPhone 4.
The report states that it is unclear if the new phone will be physically larger, or if the screen will just be enlarged, squeezing into the same body size.
This news echoes two reports yesterday, from both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, that the new iPhone will have a larger screen. The latter report specifically mentions that the new screens will measure “4 inches from corner to corner”.
The new screens are said to begin production in June, in order to ship a new iPhone later this fall, likely in October. An iPhone with a larger screen has been rumored since at least February of 2011. Recently, iMore’s Rene Ritchie took a look at the possible iPhone configurations that would accomodate such a larger screen.
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Apple finishes converting 4G branding to ‘WiFi + Cellular’ for iPads across European stores


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Apple has apparently completed converting the wording of all of its European stores from the old iPad ’4G’ branding, which landed it in hot water with consumer advocacy groups, to the new WiFi + Cellular branding. This includes Italy and Sweden, two countries which had not made the switch as of last week.
The change in branding, means that Apple no longer refers to iPads as ‘Wi-Fi + 4G’ and instead calls them ‘Wi-Fi + Cellular’. This was done in response to a legal challenge by the Australian Competition and Consumer Comission. They took umbrage with the fact that Apple said the iPads were 4G, even though there’s no 4G network that supports it in Australia.
The same is the case in many other countries, including Italy, Sweden and many others across Europe. You can see this in the screenshots of the Italian and Swedish stores below:
Screen Shot 2012 05 17 at 5.45.06 PM 520x376 Apple finishes converting 4G branding to WiFi + Cellular for iPads across European stores
Screen Shot 2012 05 17 at 5.44.09 PM 520x372 Apple finishes converting 4G branding to WiFi + Cellular for iPads across European stores
The change had previously been made in the UK, Australia, the U.S., Canada, UAE, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Ireland, and Hong Kong.
Thanks to Setteb.it for pointing this out to us on Twitter.
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Infinity Blade: Dungeons gameplay finally revealed, two months after teaser at Apple’s iPad launch


Infinity Blade: Dungeons gameplay finally revealed, two months after teaser at Apple’s iPad launch

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Revealed at Apple’s iPad 3 launch event, Epic Games’ new Infinity Blade: Dungeonstitle has been forever ‘Coming Soon.’ Today, we can finally bring you some footage (via Joystiq) as to how the game will look, highlighting a shift from the previous titles in the franchise.
Whereas previously you fought one-on-one with your enemies, Infinity Blade: Dungeons features a top-down view and (dare I say it) has more of a Diablo III vibe about it. Add in some touchscreen gestures and you appear to have the makings of a pretty impressive iPad game.
The E3 trailer, in it’s entirety:
Infinity Blade: Dungeons looks really slick, utilising HDR graphics and tone mapping and incorporating new lighting that the iPad’s quad-core graphics processor can handle.
Epic Games CEO Mike Capps said during Apple’s iPad launch that the Unreal Engine takes advantage of the tablet’s impressive graphics capabilities, which Capps says bests the Xbox 360 or the PS3 as far as memory is concerned — as to how, he wouldn’t elaborate.
At the time, we figured we would see the app in a couple of weeks, that’s now been extended to a couple of months. If we were to guess, it will be made available at least by Apple’s WWDC conference, but Epic has given no indication as to its release.
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Apple no longer censoring the word ‘jailbreak’ in U.S. iTunes Store


Apple no longer censoring the word ‘jailbreak’ in U.S. iTunes Store

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Yesterday a bit of a hullabaloo was started when it was discovered that Apple was censoring the word ‘jailbreak’ in the U.S. App Store. Now, that censoring has been corrected, and the word is visible across all categories, including podcasts, songs, iTunes U, iBooks and more.
This censoring was likely the result of an error in the ratings for the U.S. App Store, as the word appeared just fine worldwide. As I conjectured yesterday, we have seen Apple fix the problem quietly, and the error has been rectified.
Screen Shot 2012 05 18 at 4.27.51 AM 520x413 Apple no longer censoring the word jailbreak in U.S. iTunes Store
In closing, I’ll just quote what I said then:
If Apple was simply enacting an ‘iTunes-wide’ ban on the word jailbreak, why would it only do so in the U.S.? Much of the world’s jailbreak community is located internationally, because one of the first major reasons to jailbreak iOS devices was to unlock it from its exclusivity to AT&T as a carrier. Why wouldn’t Apple censor it in the most popular regions for the term?
If I had to conjecture, I would say that this problem will likely quietly fix itself now that it has gained some attention. Don’t be surprised to see the word jailbreak suddenly re-appear like normal in iTunes.
It looks like this is exactly what has taken place. Rest easy jailbreakers, Apple isn’t out to get you.
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Facebook spikes 13.16% to $43 per share on NASDAQ debut; $117.7b market cap


Facebook spikes 13.16% to $43 per share on NASDAQ debut; $117.7b market cap

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In its public trading debut on NASDAQ, Facebook’s share price immediately jumped 13.16% to $43, instantly giving the social networking giant a market capitalization of $117.7 billion. That’s $13.7 billion more than yesterday’s $104 billion valuation.
Yesterday, the company priced its IPO at $38 per share. Facebook’s trading debut spike is in line with debut patterns of other companies, and is especially unsurprising given the hype around the company’s flotation.
Facebook also raised the price of its shares, and added more total shares to its IPO in the week that preceded it. Pricing was finally set yesterday, after a day of meetings. It was unsure, at least publicly, if Facebook would be priced at $38, or $39. The company eventually settled on $38. Facebook’s IPO is the largest ever for a technology or Internet firm, and the second largest in US history. Visa’s offering was slightly higher.
TNW will be watching Facebook throughout the day. It will be quite interesting to see where the stock ends its first day of trading. As it is Friday, the company will have less than one day of trading before the weekend moratorium hits, although after-hours trading may be very active for the newly public company.
According to Bloomberg, some 82,000,000 shares of Facebook traded in the first 30 seconds. In the first 5 minutes, 100 million shares traded hands, Reuters reports.
Facebook has eased since its first pop, and is trending down towards the $40 mark. Check Google Finance for real time updates.
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See all the photos Facebook employees are posting to Instagram on IPO day


See all the photos Facebook employees are posting to Instagram on IPO day

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It’s been a long time coming but it’s finally happened, Facebook has gone public on NASDAQ and is offering 421,233,615 shares to investors. Updated.
As you can imagine, there’s quite a party going down at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, with thousands of employees sharing their experiences directly on the social network, but also via one of its newest acquisitions — Instagram.
Thanks to Instagram’s API and Spots.io, we can see every photo that the guys and girls at Facebook are posting to the image sharing service, in almost real-time.
Take a look for yourself.
Screen Shot 2012 05 18 at 16.16.52 520x392 See all the photos Facebook employees are posting to Instagram on IPO day
If you’re so inclined, you can subscribe to an RSS feed for the location, so you can be notified of the latest Instagram photos shared from Facebook’s California campus.
Instagram might not officially be a Facebook property (it’s facing a longer than expected wait thanks to an FTC probe), but its employees are already big fans of the app.
If you want a good look at what they are sharing without having to subscribe to individual updates, this has to be the easiest way.
Update: If you’re looking for an alternative, as Spots.io seems to have overloaded, check out this gallery at Instabam.
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Facebook drops, kissing IPO price before rebounding


Facebook drops, kissing IPO price before rebounding

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In a nail-biting bit of trading, Facebook landed at the $38 mark, and sat there, almost falling below its IPO price. The company had spiked as high as $43.20 this morning, according to Google Finance, but settled quickly.
Zynga’s plunge and halt could not have helped. Here’s the chart, as things stand:
2012 05 18 11h04 37 520x181 Facebook drops, kissing IPO price before rebounding
I’ll bet a whole host of investors are more than glad that Facebook didn’t break the psychological boundary that its IPO price represents. Whatever jitters investors seem to have had, they appear to be leaving.
Of course, the entire financial world is staring at the company, given the size and importance of its initial public offering. For more on Facebook’s IPO, check TNW’sprevious coverage.
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India tipped to overtake the US to become the world’s biggest Facebook market by 2015


India tipped to overtake the US to become the world’s biggest Facebook market by 2015

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It has just seen Brazil overtake it to become Facebook’s largest overseas market, but India is being tipped to overtake the US and the Latin American country to become the planet’s largest collection of Facebook users by 2015.
India currently has 57 million registered Facebook members, putting it some distance behind the US (157 million) and narrowly below Brazil (59 million) — according toSocialbakers — but India has barely scratched the service of its online potential, and could bring hundreds of millions of its population online in the coming years.
Speaking to CNBC, Gartner analyst Shalini Verma predicted that a change of order will take place before the end of 2015, driven by a continued growth in mobile-based Web access:
India could overtake the United States in the next three years. Last year, Facebook users in India doubled. Growth will be driven by mobile Internet users in second- and third-tier cities.
Mobile is the key factor for the development of Internet access in India, which, in turn, would power Facebook and other services’ growth. Currently, fixed-line penetration is below 10 percent — the country passed 100 million users in November — with mobile already accounting for half of all Internet use, according to Statcounter data, and phone-based access is set to only increase.
Smartphones and Web-enabled feature phones are the driving force behind India’s online revolution. Smartphone shipments to the country passed 10 million for the first time last year, taking just ten months to set the new record, according to CyberMedia Research, but there is still much more to come.
Smartphones accounted for just 6 percent of the 160 million plus mobile devices that shipped to India in 2011. Shipments are very much in response and anticipation to sales and, with country-wide monthly smartphones purchases topping one million for the first time in November, retailers are set to order and sell devices in greater quantities than ever before this year.
The increasing affordability of low-end smartphones and Web-enabled feature phones is a key factor seen as having the potential to bring lower-income India’s online with a more app centric mobile experience.
Nokia is making a particular push for the first time Internet phone buyer market with a series of affordable feature phones, including its Asha series – which begins at $60 — while two sub-$50 phones were announced last week.
Facebook itself is also pushing its low end offering, having added seven new Indian languages to its ‘Facebook For Every Phone’ app, which caters for feature phones in the country.
There are also encouraging signs on the infrastructure side of things. India was a relative late adopter of 3G networks but it already has its first commercial 4G deployment, after AirTel launched its LTE service last month.
Initially available in just two cities and via dongles only, the service will expand to cover more parts of the country in time and, once LTE-compatible device ownership swells, smartphones and tablets will be included too.
Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor heralded the significance of the 4G service as “driving fundamental changes in society at large” and wider adoption of mobile Web and Internet-enabled devices is likely to see Facebook, Twitter and other online services seriously grow their presence among India’s 1.2 billion population.
Facebook itself has previously admitted that India will become its biggest market at some point, but it remains to be seen if Facebook user numbers there can accelerate at such a rate that it overtakes the US by 2015.
Based on recent growth (1.96 percent in the last three months) — which doesn’t account for saturation — the US will pass 200 million members by the end of 2015. That would require Facebook to grow by more than three and half times its current user base in India – a big ask.
Currently, half of India’s Internet users are registered members of Facebook, which suggests that the demand to support such growth is there. Assuming that the site held its popularity among Indians, it could break 200 million users if the country is able to bring a further 300 million new Internet users online by 2015.
However way you look at it, the requirement is challenging but Facebook will be concerned with growing its user base (and revenues) in India, and that is certain to happen regardless of whether India tops the US market, or not.
Note: For anyone sceptical that India’s impoverished hold any interest in owning a smartphone, it’s worth remembering that there are more mobile phones in the country than toilets, as CNN reported. Equally, the Internet (and Facebook) can provide genuine benefits for everyday life – as these Indian farmers can testify.
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Iran plans to sue Google over leaving the Persian Gulf nameless on its Maps service


Iran plans to sue Google over leaving the Persian Gulf nameless on its Maps service

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It seems that Google’s woes over its decision to leave the Persian Gulf nameless on Google Maps are far from over, with Iran saying it will sue the tech company as a result, AP reports.
After the move stirred up quite a bit of controversy among Iranian Internet users, the Iranian government was quick to call out Google for its decision, accusing the company of fabricating lies, adding that the move would not do much to engender trust among its users and “diminish the corporation’s credibility.”
Speaking to the BBC, Google’s stance was to stay out of the matter, claiming that it’s not the only unnamed item on the maps.
Clearly not convinced with the justification, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast stated that Google was liable to “serious damages”, and speaking to Iranian news agency Mehr, he added that Iran has made it clear that they are more than willing to take the matter to court.
The topic has proved to be a highly controversial and politicized one, with Gulf and Arab states choosing to refer to the body of water as the Arabian Gulf, while Iranians insist on standing by the historical Persian Gulf.
Google may have chosen to bury its head on the sand on this one, as a way of simply staying out of the argument, but the stance may have brought the tech company more trouble than it bargained for.
Google is no stranger to controversy in Iran, having its products periodically blocked, and most recently Gmail is among the many foreign email services which have beenblacklisted for correspondence with Iranian 
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Google commissions 6 developers to hack on its Hangouts API for 2 weeks


Google commissions 6 developers to hack on its Hangouts API for 2 weeks

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After releasing an update to its Hangouts API, the Google+ team is quite eager to see what developers are planning to do with it. They’re so eager, in fact, that they are actually commissioning 6 developers, “from agencies like The Barbarian Group to independent developers like Eyebeam alum Aaron Meyers teamed up with OKFocus” to experiment with the API for 2 weeks, while sharing their thoughts and discoveries along the way.
This, of course, isn’t your typical hackathon; usually they aren’t paying gigs for just a few participants. But still, this event does look like it will capture a bit of the raw hackathon spirit, as it solely revolves around the idea of hacking something rough yet awesome together in a short amount of time.
If you’re curious about what can be built with the newly updated API, which now allows “the ability to respond to facial movements in real-time inside an app”, you can head to the Google+ Developers page, and get all the details as they happen. According to Google+ Developer Advocate Jonathan Beri, Google is also interested in seeing what other developers are working on outside the hackathon, and you can share your projects with the hashtag #hangoutshackathon.
Overall, it looks like this will be a compelling way to get 3rd party devs interested in working with Google’s Hangouts API, while giving a handful of pros a chance to kickstart interest.
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No more +1′s on YouTube, now you’ll have to share your feelings on Google+


No more +1′s on YouTube, now you’ll have to share your feelings on Google+

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Google has been integrating its social layer Google+ into all of its products lately. Gmail and YouTube have gotten the social treatment, but the latter made a bit of a tweak today.
Here’s what the YouTube team had to say on its Google+ page:
Starting today, we’re updating the way you can share with your Google+ circles from YouTube. Just click ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ as usual, and you’ll see the new Google+ Share link, as well as other popular service
The new sharing options, being kicked off with a “like” or “share” as YouTube states, lets you post to Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Interestingly, what’s missing is the +1 button that used to add items to your Google+ profile as things you find interesting, not necessarily shareable for your stream. Here’s what that used to look like, according to YouTube’s help section:
youtubeplus 520x121 No more +1s on YouTube, now youll have to share your feelings on Google+
By toggling the +1 on and off, you could share it….without really sharing it. What that means is you could +1 something without it going into your stream as an embedded video that people can comment on and reshare.
The +1 appears to be on the phasing out process as Google is trying to ignite more actual content sharing within streams, which of course gets way more engagement than a simple +1.
Here’s what the share button looks like now:
Convo 22 520x261 No more +1s on YouTube, now youll have to share your feelings on Google+
Google+ users in this announcement post are also asking the question “Hey where did the +1 go?”. Much like Facebook’s “Like” button, Google’s +1 is a lightweight interaction that factors into what content its algorithms show you as suggested content.
The new Google+ share button, which you’ll find here on TNW, is also phasing out the notion of a +1.
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Interested in the solar eclipse on May 20th? Check out this Google Map from NASA


Interested in the solar eclipse on May 20th? Check out this Google Map from NASA

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You only have one shot to catch the solar eclipse on May 20th, or you’ll have to wait until next year. Thanks to technology, and some help from NASA, you can now get the heads up on the exact path of the upcoming Instagram-worthy event.
The organization has posted a really cool map that tracks the entire solar eclipse, so that you can plan on where to be and when to be:
This map shows the path of the Annular Solar Eclipse of 2012 May 20. The northern and southern path limits are blue and the central line is red. The yellow lines crossing the path indicate the position of maximum eclipse at 10-minute intervals.
NASA Annular Solar Eclipse of 2012 May 20 520x214 Interested in the solar eclipse on May 20th? Check out this Google Map from NASA
Choose the Large Map check box to produce a bigger map (for users with large monitors and fast internet connections). For more information, seeGoogle Eclipse Map Instructions.
If you’re a space and geography nerd like I am, seeing ridiculous amounts of data packed into a pretty map like this is your dream.
Be sure to head on over to NASA’s site to see the map in its full interactive glory.
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Slide.ly makes slideshow creation easy with Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos [invites]


Slide.ly makes slideshow creation easy with Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos [invites]

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If you’ve ever wanted to make a slideshow of photos to commemorate an occasion, or just because the mood struck you, you probably know that it’s not the easiest process in the world. First, you have to find all of the photos that you want to include, and those photos might be scattered all over the web. Second, you have to find the right software to build the show. After that, sharing it can be a chore.
EasyHi, a company that I met with when I was in Israel, built a beautiful platform inSlide.ly that allows you to upload or pull in your Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos to create beautiful slideshows with music, and share them easily.
Additionally, the company has an eye on building a community of people who absolutely love building slideshows to share with one another on the site as well.
On with the show
Once you sign up for Slide.ly, and we have 100 exclusive invites for you, you can connect all of your accounts that are associated with photos. Even if you don’t have a reason for creating one, the process is so simple that you’ll be inspired by all of the other people creating them on the platform:
Convo 19 520x255 Slide.ly makes slideshow creation easy with Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos [invites]
Once you’ve connected your accounts, all you have to do is click on the photos that you’d like to include in your slideshow. You can grab 3 photos from Instagram, 10 from Flickr, 5 from Facebook, and upload a few from your desktop. It doesn’t matter what the source is, all photos will be brought in together as one video slideshow:
Slide.ly Free Photo Slideshow online awesome slide show maker with photos and music 520x269 Slide.ly makes slideshow creation easy with Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos [invites]
After you’ve selected all of your photos, you can drag them around to put them in the order that you want. You can also add some music to the show by using YouTube videos or SoundCloud music, which are all made available from within the Slide.ly site:
Slide.ly Free Photo Slideshow online awesome slide show maker with photos and music 1 520x253 Slide.ly makes slideshow creation easy with Flickr, Instagram, and Facebook photos [invites]
After you’ve gotten the perfect combination of pictures and music, you can add a few effects to your show to liven it up a bit. It’s a really fun process and once you’re done you might come up with something like this:
You can embed the slideshow on your site or share it to Twitter, Google+, or Facebook with a click of a button. It’s a really neat platform and I think the company could be on to some big things.
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Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your site


Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your site

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If you’ve been looking for an easy way to embed gorgeous galleries on your website or WordPress blog, you don’t have to look any further than Juicebox.
logo juicebox 220x63 Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your siteWith both free and paid versions, Juicebox is a flexible, incredibly easy-to-use gallery manager, which uses HTML5 and JavaScript to embed photos in your site.
There are several ways you can create image galleries using Juicebox, whether it’s with the Adobe Air desktop app, requiring a little bit of extra effort on your part when it comes to editing the .xml file, using a Photoshop template, a Lightroom plugin, or easiest and most convenient of all, a WordPress plugin.
Juicebox also provides extensive guides on how to embed galleries in an HTML page, a Drupal or Joomla site, or using Dreamweaver and iWeb, among other options making it a truly flexible and universal tool now matter how you choose to run your site.
The easiest way to use Juicebox, however, is undoubtedly by downloading its handyWordPress plugin. With WordPress becoming an increasingly popular choice for photography portfolios, Juicebox really complements the features and themes already on offer thanks to the blogging platform.
Getting started with Juicebox on WordPress
To create a Juicebox gallery on a WordPress page or post, all you have to do is install the plugin, create a new post and upload your images using the native Gallery feature.
You’ll notice that there’s also a new Juicebox button in the menu, where you can configure how the images you uploaded are going to be displayed. After uploading your images, simply click that button, and you can choose the background colour of the embedded gallery as well as the gallery width and height, so it fits right in with your WordPress theme.
It’s also worth noting that the file name for each images is used as photo captions.
In addition to uploading images directly to WordPress, you can also fetch your images from Flickr, using only your Flickr username and the tag of the photos you want displayed.
Juicebox Add Gallery Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your site
Adding or removing images is as simple as loading the post and editing the gallery on WordPress, although Juicebox does also give you access to each of the galleries under a dedicated Juicebox tab in the menu.
From there you can edit the title, and access all of the configuration options you had when first creating the gallery.
Edit Juicebox Galleries Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your siteIf we had one complaint about the WordPress plugin, it would be that there appears to be no easy way to determine which part of the image is used as a thumbnail, whereas with the HTML option, you can create your own thumbnails manually.
Upgrading to the Pro version as far as WordPress is concerned will give you access to far more configuration options, providing more control over how your gallery is displayed.
The Pro version of Juicebox also gives you a wide range of additional features, including the ability to add audio and watermarks to your galleries, remove the Juicebox branding and add autoplay support. You can also access  additional theming options, host unlimited images in galleries, and more.
The free version is limited to 50 photos per gallery, which is honestly more than enough. These days, the possibility of someone scrolling through over 50 images on any website is highly unlikely.
Juicebox is one of the easiest ways we’ve come across to create galleries no matter what platform you’re using for your site.
The final product is a sleek, attractive and best of all, responsive gallery, which opens in full-screen mode, with mobile support for both Android and iOS.
Viewers can scroll through the images using the arrow keys, or browse through the thumbnails and go straight to the image that catches their eye.
juicebox gallery Juicebox is the easiest way to create responsive photo galleries for your site
Want to see it in action? Check out one of the galleries we created.
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Vyclone: This collaborative video app is just what citizen journalists ordered


Vyclone: This collaborative video app is just what citizen journalists ordered

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2011 was a tumultuous year for the Middle East, but the troubles also served as a reminder of the role technology can play in giving everyone a voice.
Live video-streaming platform Bambuser is one example of how citizens took the initiative and reported on events from their own perspective, often from positions unreachable by traditional media outlets. And now as The Guardian reports, a new mobile app is looking to harness the power of roving smartphone-owners to create a compendium of crowdsourced clips that tell the story of key events from multiple perspectives.

Vyclone: Videos from the masses

Vyclone is a free iOS app that professes to let you “Record life from all angles” – in short, it lets users collaborate from different locations and perspectives to “co-create, sync and share movies”.
So let’s assume you’re watching the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations – topical, I know – and you film a snippet of the procession using your iPhone. Vyclone lets you upload a clip to its servers, where other users can throw their own shots into the mix to create a crowdsourced movie encompassing, literally, different points-of-view.
c3 Vyclone: This collaborative video app is just what citizen journalists ordered

How it works…

When you first launch the app, it’s clear the preference is that you log-in with your Facebook credentials, but you can set yourself up with your own Vyclone account too.
Once you’re in you can browse existing videos, or start shooting footage yourself.
a9 520x386 Vyclone: This collaborative video app is just what citizen journalists ordered
It’s worth noting that once you upload a video for the Vyclone-using public to access, others can remix it and do as they please. So imagine you’re at a gig and you capture some great footage, it could find its way onto a multimillion-views YouTube hit. So if you’re precious about your ‘work’, this may not be for you.
That said, you can choose what content you want to share publicly through Vyclone, and whether you want to keep it private between you and your buddies. If you don’t choose ‘public’ or ‘private’, it will default to the former.
The app’s terms and conditions are pretty clear though, and there are potential ramifications for rights-issues depending on where your video collaboration ends up. It says:
“By choosing to post the content to the Vyclone website through the app, you are granting pretty much everyone else the right to use, edit and view your content. It’s 21st Century sharing, and we hope you like that. If you don’t, then don’t hit POST to submit your content to the Vyclone website through the app. Got it? Yes? Super.”
The upshot of this is, well, you could upload a clip on the spur of the moment of a really newsworthy event (think: Arab Uprising), and it could find its way onto a CNN montage in no time. But, you have been warned and you likely won’t have a leg to stand on if you object to how your handiwork has been used.
Moving back to the specifics of the app, a nice little feature is that you can search for movies that have already been created nearby, which obviously lends itself well to event-specific video collaborations.
Once you’re done shooting or remixing the movie with the built-in editing tool, you can choose to broadcast your movie across all the usual social networks.
It’s worth noting that the app is UK-only for now, though as The Guardian notes, a full-scale launch should happen this year. And an Android app is in the works too.
So…what do the creators believe the app will be used for?
“Our big regret is that we didn’t have Vyclone ready in time for the Arab unrest or Occupy Wall Street protests, as it would have been a very powerful tool to record what was truly happening,” says Chief Executive David King Lassman in the interviewwith The Guardian’s Stuart Dredge.
“We’re convinced that citizen journalism will be a key application for the product. But the reason we’re putting this out into the public domain is that people will find uses for this that we couldn’t possibly begin to imagine.”
In other words, your only limit is your imagination. Citizen journalism is only one potential use-case for Vyclone.
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FreeAppADay clears up the facts on its relationship with Socialcam (UPDATED)


FreeAppADay clears up the facts on its relationship with Socialcam (UPDATED)

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UPDATE: FreeAppADay CEO Joe Bayen has issued a statement to TNW to clarify its position on its relationship with Socialcam:
Socialcam used their own marketing channels to promote their app on the app store up until April 29th. At which point FreeAppADay gave them additional exposure.
During our initial conversation, which included verifications of his previous statement, Bayen had stated that without FreeAppADay, Socialcam wouldn’t have cracked the top 25. I’m told that the original statement had more to do with the overall hard work and legitimacy of its platform, and not its relationship with Socialcam specifically.
——
Last week I covered some of the tactics being used by social video sharing app Socialcam to climb the charts and engage its users with YouTube videos. In response to the YouTube issue, Socialcam moved quickly to clean up its act.
One side-story of the Socialcam saga is the fact that the company was also using a marketing service called FreeAppADay. Here’s the gist from my original post:
When we reported that Socialcam had hit the #1 free app position on Apple’s app store, I followed up quickly with the fact that the company was using a marketing service called FreeAppADay to drive itself up the charts. Whilst FreeAppADay is normally only used by paid apps going free for a day (SocialCam is free), this type of non-organic growth isn’t “illegal”, and Apple doesn’t seem to mind. Once you get into the top five on the charts, you start experiencing organic growth due to the curiosity of those watching the charts for new apps to download.
I pointed out then that the service wasn’t breaking any rules, it was just a curious part of the entire “Socialcam rise to glory” story. I was told by a source that Socialcam didn’t approach FreeAppADay to use its service, and after speaking to its CEO today, Joe Bayen, I was able to confirm that was indeed the case:
We always strive to showcase to our end-users the very best app in the app store and in this specific case SocialCam met all our criteria to be featured on FreeAppADay. Our junior sales representative did not grasp yet the various plans that we are offering to our developer partners and proceeded to offer our rev-share model to SocialCam which made absolutely no sense since the app was already free.
Bayen told me that after the gaffe the company had started the process of charging Socialcam, but then decided not to. The company makes it clear that “freebies” aren’t the norm for it, so it looks like Socialcam made out pretty good on the deal. Bayen went on a bit further to share how well the campaign went, which started at the end of April or early May:
If it was not for our efforts I can guarantee you that SocialCam would not have been able to crack the top 25.

Just win

Now that we can put all of these specifics to rest, the question “if you could potentially sell your company for a billion dollars. What lengths would you go to find success?” still stands.
In Socialcam’s case, it looks like it got very lucky in that it used a service that advertises itself as being able to help developers find their way up the App Store charts by promoting it to its users through its website, other apps, and more. Again, Apple doesn’t seem to mind, so at the end of the day it’s a job well done byFreeAppADay.
Now that we’re hopefully over the “Instagram for video” debate, I’m interested to see which players come up big with features and value for its users. Because that is how you win.
UPDATE 2: According to a source, along with actual app data, Socialcam reached the #2 spot on the app store on approximately April 24th, which would contest the FreeAppADay CEO’s claim that “If it was not for our efforts I can guarantee you that SocialCam would not have been able to crack the top 25.”:
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Windows Phone may have crossed the 12 million unit mark


Windows Phone may have crossed the 12 million unit mark

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Over a year ago, TNW noted a correlation between the number of active Windows Phone Facebook users and the number of Windows Phone handsets that had been sold. After some calculation, we discerned that there was a ratio of 6.756 handsets sold per active user of the application. In January we posited that, based on the number of active app users, some 2 million Windows Phone handsets had been sold.
One week later, Microsoft confirmed our numbers. It was almost silly timing, really.
However, that’s all old potato, so what are we doing today? Taking the ratio to the current number of active Windows Phone Facebook users, of course. Now, this wasn’t our plan, at least not today. The fine chaps over at WMPowerUser had the idea, and we agree that the timing is fortuitous; currently, everyone wants to know what sort of impact Nokia is having on Windows Phone sales. By the way, it appears to be a positive one.
Now, to the chart!
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Before we dive into the math-mongering, that rise in sales figures, right after the start of new year, is likely due to Nokia’s arrival as a Windows Phone OEM.
Now, shall we mathmagic? Yes. Yesterday, Windows Phone’s Facebook app broke past the 1.9 million active user mark. Using our ratio, that implies that some 12,836,400 Windows Phone handsets have been sold. To be conservative, we round down to 12 million.
What does that number mean? Not much, given that it stands apart from context; would 15 million have been a material improvement, or 10 million a painful decrease? However, it does give us an idea of how large the hardware install base is for Windows Phone.
One last note: these figures, and the ratio that we use, lose their credibility over time. As people buy a second Windows Phone handset, they remain a single Facebook user, while two phones have been sold, for example. So, keep in mind that this is all highly speculative.
But really, Microsoft, it’s time to tell us how Windows Phone is doing.
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Windows Phone has quietly picked up 7% of the Chinese market


Windows Phone has quietly picked up 7% of the Chinese market


We’ve seen precious little from Microsoft in terms of sales and market share figures for its Windows Phone platform lately, and so when the company speaks, we listen. A recent report in the Dutch publication Emerce contains a fact, attributed to Microsoft that surprised us: Windows Phone has snagged some 7% of the Chinese market.
Microsoft’s Michel van der Bel, its COO of in the region, characterized the company’s progress in the following way [Text via Emerce, translated by Google, edited by TNW]:
“We’ve only just begun. Our smartphones and PC-tablet hybrids [TNW: Windows 8], are suitable for the consumer, and are easy to integrate into an existing business infrastructure. This flexibility allows us to better respond to the cosumerization of IT than our competitors.”
According to WindowPhonePowerUser, Apple’s iPhone controls 6% of the Chinese market, implying that Microsoft has managed to slip past its rival with its handsets in the massive country, and emerging, critical smartphone locale. Of course, the iPhone has yet to officially touch down in the country, so the achievement is of dubious value. However, WMPowerUser’s report does note that Android controls nearly 70% of China’s smartphone market, so Windows Phone remains a smaller fry.
Still, progress is progress, and such work in a country like China is key to Microsoft’s goal of building a global brand for its phones, making it less reliant on markets that are more hotly contested, such as the United States.
7% is nothing but a start, but a start it is.
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Upcoming Microsoft deal: Buy a Windows 7 PC, upgrade to Windows 8 for a mere $15


Upcoming Microsoft deal: Buy a Windows 7 PC, upgrade to Windows 8 for a mere $15

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Microsoft, in a bid to keep Windows 7 PC sales strong through to the end of the operating system’s lifecycle, has a plan: offer people a dead cheap Windows 8 upgrade , thus making the option of waiting for the upcoming operating system to drop a poor decision.
How cheap will the deal be? According to Paul Thurrott, the bump to Windows 8 will cost a mere $15. Of course, this sort of promotion is hardly new – Microsoft does something similar every time it releases a new operating system. It helps people get onto the new code quickly, and ensures that Windows revenue doesn’t take a massive dive in the quarter preceding the new operating system’s release.
Even worse, as the company doesn’t formally announce the release date of the software for some time, not offering a cheap upgrade could add to consumer uncertainty, which might lead to a wallet-closing situation.
One more note, however: this time ’round the upgrade bush, Microsoft is pushing people to Windows 8 Pro, and not its normal flavor. There won’t be (so far as can be told) an upgrade to the vanilla Windows 8 edition. Why MSFT is pushing people to Pro is hard to say, and until we have a final feature breakdown of the various editions of the operating system we won’t be able to say much more.
The promotion is set to kick off on June 2nd, so if you were thinking about picking up a new machine, you might want to count to ten before you pull the trigger.
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Microsoft’s Windows 8 play: Kill Live, build one login to rule them all


Microsoft’s Windows 8 play: Kill Live, build one login to rule them all


Sometimes the biggest news isn’t shouted, but is instead intimated, as it is a pivot from former strategies. So far as I can tell, Windows Live as a brand is over. Microsoftis moving from it to a single-login system that will be a huge boon to Windows 8, and the company’s cloud projects.
Essentially, Windows Live has long been a disjointed bag of hurt; its components were disparate, and hard to use in concert. Microsoft is fixing that problem, and boosting Windows 8 at the same time by moving to ‘Microsoft accounts.’ The login that you use to get into Windows 8 will also be your account login for nearlyall your cloud services, from SkyDrive to Hotmail.
By doing this, Microsoft is solving a branding problem (no one knows what a ‘Windows Live’ is), a cohesion problem (products scattered here and there), and an account redundancy issue (different logins for different systems). The company is building one login to rule them all, and it’s a great move.
Consumers are now going to be given a plethora of services, up front, I suspect via pre-installed Live Tiles on their Windows 8 tablet interface (the ‘Start Screen’), with no work needed. It will just be there, as they will have already logged in via their Microsoft account. As Microsoft notes:
When you connect a device or service to your Microsoft account, you’re automatically provisioned with a set of cloud services, including a contact list, calendar, inbox, instant messaging, and cloud storage.
Also, billing is about to unified, meaning that paying for Zune and other services will be brought under the Microsoft account aegis:
Microsoft account is our identity service for individuals who use Microsoft products and services. You can use your Microsoft account to sign in to your Windows 8 PC, and then use the same account to check your billing for services like Xbox LIVE, Zune, and the Windows 8 app store.  And your Microsoft account is connected to your Xbox gamer tag so you can track high scores and games.  You can sign up for a Microsoft account with any email address, and provide additional verification information including your mobile phone number and a list of your trusted devices.
We’ll be rolling out the change in nomenclature from Windows Live ID to Microsoft account over the next several months across our product line. There are still some areas we continue to work on such as migrating your account (credit cards and purchase history) from one market (currency) to another if you’ve connected your account to services such as Xbox LIVE.
Windows 8 is likely to land in the October time frame, meaning that it will be in place for the holiday rush. That means that come next January, there will be millions, upon millions of new Windows 8 users, sporting fresh Microsoft accounts. And they will all be SkyDrive users, whether they intended to be or not.
Microsoft, in a single move, has set itself up to explode its cloud services, kill a brand that was, frankly, bad, and bring a big amount of cogency to its huge operating system bet.
Damn.
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