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Surface_mobile

Microsoft is considering a return to the phone market. And the device they may return with is a dual screen device that can be used as a tablet. Looking at patents the dual screen will provide a continuous screen when in tablet mode. Microsoft detailed a number of sizes for the mobile device in both phone and tablet configurations. They even experimented it seems on a three screen foldable device; but the final version looks to be a dual screen.

This year Microsoft received patents for a series of technologies that together may provide a glimpse at a future device. The patents cover the screen, a hinge mechanism, and two cover the device itself. All patents point to a mobile device that is a combination of a smartphone and a tablet. While patents tend to obscure specific information the accompanying images provide an idea on what Microsoft is considering.

msft_device

On the surface, this device looks a lot like the ill fated Microsoft Courier. Both are dual screen, touch devices but the Courier screen was separated by a large hinge and was more of a digital notebook.
This new device is a mix of tablet and phone; also the device minimizes the hinge between the screens to create a seamless screen when used as a tablet.
Sketch_Hinge
Between the first filled patent in 2011 and the most recent filling, Microsoft has seemingly changed the design of the hinge mechanism. In earlier designs the hinge allowed for a device that opened flat 180 degrees or close. The latest design seems to use a combination of magnates and a flexible hinge to improve usability. In the patent they discuss the various positions which now allow the device to flip the screen 360 degrees.
While this is exciting news it should be remembered that these are patents and companies file them all the time and don’t mean a device is incoming. But based on this and other information we may see this soon.
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There has been so much news coming out of this year’s Build Conference that it’s hard to just recap daily events. Beyond HoloLens which is amazing is a number of initiatives and changes that are making Windows 10 this very intriguing platform to watch. In particular the future of the UI once known as Metro and Continuum.

Now this isn’t exactly breaking news, other sites have reported it, but during one of the sessions on Windows Live Tiles one of the slides listed Interactive Tiles as a feature being worked . While Live tiles allow you to see information without having to open an application you still have to open an app to do anything proactive. Interactive tiles function like Widgets which allow you to interact with info without leaving the Start Screen. Interactive tiles were introduced as a research project two years ago and it looks like they will be coming in Windows 10.

Interactive_Tiles

On the other side of things is Continuum. Continuum is a system that makes it easy for users of Windows to switch between the Desktop and Tablet environments. Basically it’s a tablet mode for Windows PCs and 2-in-1 devices. On Wednesday Microsoft introduced a version of Continuum for Windows Phones running 10. unlike the PC/Tablet PC version, Continuum for Phones turns smartphones into PCs. This means with a dock, wireless dongle, or USB cord your Windows phone can deliver a PC experience.

Continuum_Concept

Now during a talk on how to implement Continuum for Phones members of the Continuum team briefly showed a slide that showed a device they described, “as not a PC but a device powered by a Phone.” The white laptop dock, which was also described as a detachable tablet PC, would work like a cross between Windows RT and a Chromebook. The team described it as one of a new class of devices that could be powered by Continuum for Phones. The idea of using a phone to power a laptop isn’t new; Motorola did it with the Atrix and Palm with the Foleo. Asus also markets the Padfone as tablet/phone device. The difference here is Microsoft is designing its software to work across screens and providing developers with the tools to do the same.

The fact that the developers showed off a picture of a device looks like Microsoft or one of its hardware partners is planning on showing us something cool.

IE Spartan

Okay this site has no stance on rumors other than saying upfront when we are writing about something we have no idea is real or conjecture. So the following is rumor until we hear otherwise. So last week I run across a tweet by Thomas Nigro, one of the developers of the VLC app for Windows/Windows Phone. In the tweet he says Microsoft is planning to release a browser not named Internet Explorer for Windows 10; in fact this new browser will replace IE.

This in turn brought about a conversation on Twitter where some noted Windows watchers went about examining Nigro’s information. According to him the info came from the Live tile podcast, a French Windows based podcast. The way Nigro describes it this new browser is a total rewrite with a new interface. When asked by Brad Sams (Neowin) and Mary Jo Foley (ZDNet) it would have heavy integration with Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant and be based on IE’s current Trident engine. The whole thing was and is somewhat confusing but is plausible because of recent moves with the Internet Explorer team.

Recently the IE team has been moving to make major changes for the browser. From creating enterprise mode to help move enterprises off older IE browsers to the new preview program allowing users to have test builds. One thing has been clear the IE team is looking at a lot of ways to modernize Microsoft’s browser. Much like many groups within the software giant, the IE team has been open about changes and looking for user feedback. It has also been clear that for them a lot of options are now on the table; and among them could be a new browser. I know from my research that the Explorer team is interested in adding features that make IE more modern and attractive to users and developers. They have widely discussed adding things like extensions and plugins. They have also been trying to extend the reach of Internet Explorer beyond Windows to make it a better choice for web developers who increasingly default to Chrome because of convenience. The IE team continues to move to make the browser more standards compliant; including creating a dashboard so developers can see what’s being worked on.

So this mystery browser has a 50/50 chance of being real. A lot of people, including myself, think Microsoft should make a new browser built around modern usage and web applications free of IE’s reputation. Some would go farther and say rebuild using WebKit (the engine used by Apple Safari and until recently Google Chrome) because its widely adapted in mobile. On the other hand enterprises won’t be too pleased if IE just simply vanished and was replaced by some flashy browser built for consumers. I know based on comments by the browser team in Redmond they feel change is needed but not with their rendering engine Trident. Now based on reports and comments from the IE team, IE12 will be different. It is believed IE12 will be redesigned and include a new extension model. According to stories by both ZDNet and Neowin, the browser is codenamed Spartan and will look familiar to anyone using Firefox or Chrome. Spartan is now in the Windows 10 preview but not user accessible. ZDNet speculated that Spartan may be based on earlier work done by Microsoft Research around the browser such as Gazelle and XAX which looked at ways to get the browser to operate more like an OS (making it easier to run web apps, plugins, and extensions). A new browser with a new more consumer focus could be what’s need to get these technologies widely adopted.

One thing I left out in talking about a new browser be it rebranded or not was the mobile aspect. In the current version of Windows, 8.1, there is essentially two browsers. One is the traditional desktop and the other is a modern version built for touch devices. In Windows 10’s beta there is only a desktop version. We know the next version of the OS will be built to include touch and its feasible this new browser replaces the versions in 8.1 and possibly joins the two browsers into one.

Extra reference:

How the next version of IE, codenamed ‘Spartan,’ might support extensions (ZDNet)

Internet Explorer 12 UI Overhaul is a Blend of Chrome and Firefox (Neowin)

image:IGN

Today, or Tomorrow take your pick, Neowin.net wrote of a possible update to the Surface/Surface 2 to be shown off in October. The news follows on the heels of Microsoft canceling the Surface Mini and the premier of the Surface Pro 3.

The Neowin article citing DigiTimes claims the Surface 3 will be thinner and lighter than the Pro 3 and be a 10.6 inch device. Neither site said whether what operating system the device could run, however Neowin seems to lean heavily toward the ARM based Windows RT.

If this is the case Microsoft will have to have certain things ready before they even think of scheduling an event. Because while I and handful of others will be happy to see it, a lot of people will not be.

For those that don’t know Windows RT is the version of Windows rewritten to run on ARM chips. The best way to think of ARM is that it is the chip use to run tablets and smartphones. ARM has the benefit of mobile capability (LTE) and also lower power (ARM devices run longer on a charge). Windows RT devices have longer battery life and, unlike the x86 version, is largely immune to viruses. Windows RT also doesn’t run legacy applications or programs built for the Intel/AMD x86 platform. This means the things people usually do on a PC won’t run on an RT device (Chrome, Firefox, iTunes). Like iOS or Android you can only run tablet apps.

The lack of legacy support on RT has made it a bit of a pariah in some circles. It has found some success as the application market has grown and amongst those who like its low maintenance styling. Much like the Google Chromebook, Windows RT devices have found a home in education (especially amongst students looking for a complimentary device).

If the Surface 3 is indeed real and comes out it will need to do something to differentiate itself from comparable devices running full Windows (x86, usually a low powered Intel or AMD chip); not to mentioned the iPad and various Android devices. According to the above sources, the Surface 3, or 3, will come with a stylus like the Pro model. We can assume this pen will be N-Trig and thus compatible with the Pro 3. I hope it means the 3 uses the same aspect ration for its screen. The Surface Pro 3 uses a 3:2 screen which makes it easier to use in portrait orientations than previous models that used the widescreen 16:9. If the 3 uses 3:2, it will be better aimed at its target audience.

Another factor that will make the Surface 3 palatable is new apps. A best case scenario is the 3 is the premier for Office Gemini (tablet/touch version of Office for Windows) or a new book service. Given the Redmond giant’s move toward productivity as a sales hook, the Surface 3 will need something that highlights it as a mobile workhorse of merit. So things like ports will be needed; also a kickstand that resembles the Pro 3. Microsoft will need to show it has the applications to sell the Surface 3. One of the big issues that faced the Surface RT (One) was a lack of apps; this needs to be different with the 3.

The Last thing this rumored device will need is to be THIN. While the Surface Pro 3 has been met with a lot of praise, its still a PC. It requires ventilation for the Intel processor. The Pro is also larger, sporting a 12 inch screen which could be too large for some. There is also the price; the Pro 3 is $799 with an i3 and goes up from there. The Surface 3 would be smaller, run cool, and be cheaper. Hopefully it is also cheaper including the TypeCover (which it will need).

Now I could be wrong and the Surface 3 could run a Baytrail chip from Intel. Doing that will make PC diehards happy (Its REAL Windows), but it would signal Microsoft was done with Windows RT. The Surface 3 could be an interesting product, if it sells its strengths. It will need to signify Microsoft’s productivity mantra (the productivity tablet) along with providing the apps. And it has to be thin.

No Pressure.

There has always been this weird uneasiness when its come to he relationship between Nokia and Microsoft. Maybe unease is the wrong word, its been a kind of tug of war. This has been especially the case for fans of both companies.

When Nokia adopted Windows Phone a few years ago it brought with it not just hardware and software but its cadre of admirers. Online these new Windows Phone users would clash occasionally with the Windows Phone users who were coming from the Microsoft side of the fence. Mostly it was over who did more for Windows Phone or who was moving the platform forward.

Now I bring this up because yesterday professional tech leaker @evleaks posted information about changes in the naming and branding of Microsoft hardware. Now I’m not as concerned about Microsoft extending the use if the Nokia brand, even though the idea of using the phrase, “Nokia by Microsoft”, seems absurd. The real news is about the Lumia and Surface. According to Ev, Microsoft will discontinue the Surface brand and opt to use the name Lumia for all its consumer offerings. This would be an interesting development given the release of the Surface Pro 3. I should add this rumor has some legs given a recent mention by about branding changes reported by WP Central’s Mark Guim and Sam Sabri.

Now how well you receive this will depend on how you sit on Nokia/Microsoft spectrum. I know a lot of Nokia fans think this is perfectly reasonable given the brand recognition of Nokia and thus Lumia. A few have said Lumia is simply more recognizable and is in more markets. Now I can’t refute this as I am in the US, but I wanted to point a few things out.

As a name the Lumia is synonymous to most watchers of mobile. For Windows Phone fans its THE phone if you’re on this platform. I think for everyone else it is a Nokia phone. Case in point my sister asked me about my 520 but she called it a Nokia and later a Lumia. I think the Lumia name has grown but that it is a weak brand. It’s simply not on the back of the phone. People may argue that Lumia is a better brand but exists in name only.

My second issue is that Lumia doesn’t fit what the Surface sells. The Surface as I see it is built around computing from the tablet on up to notebooks. It’s this modern looking device made of magnesium and glass that stands out from the black slabs and clamshells that make up the PC landscape. Lumias by contrast are pure mobile, pure color, and authentically (high quality) plastic. The Lumia line also isn’t simple. Surface is built on two devices (yes I know its for but the current line up is two) and the Lumia is built on at least seven or eight. Also as Paul Thurrott points out the name Surface is simple and describes what it is perfectly. It also translates well (how quickly people forget the Lumia lost in translation story).

And the last point brings me to this, I think if Microsoft is listening, that what they need to do is keep both names. I like the name Lumia but its not plastered on the back of anything yet. The Surface I think is solidly becoming a brand in its own right (and I might add is old IP for Redmond). I think dividing the hardware between Surface and Lumia keeps it simple for users and for Microsoft.

So an episode of mass hysteria occurred around midnight CMT  on Thursday in the online world. The reason, rumor hit that Microsoft would announce a branded tablet Monday June 18. Now this is at two days before another Microsoft event showing off Windows Phone 8 aka Apollo.

Now what’s interesting is that the news about the event happened earlier Wednesday, and while there was online speculation, there was no level of hype. Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet and Ina Fried of All Things D speculated it would be to show off Windows ARM tablets. Most treated the whole thing as a joke; because there was another rumor about Microsoft buying Yammer (a business focused social network).

So then this happened. (I’ll recount the way I found out)

Someone on the Verge forums posted a story about the Microsoft announcement was about a branded tablet; citing Mashable, who in turn cited an entertainment site called the Wrap. These stories were followed by updates by All Things D and All About Microsoft (All Things D’s Ina Fried had written earlier about the event possibly being about Windows RT). And that was within a two hour period.

And from there it’s only got crazier.

So here’s the outline. A number of journalists and bloggers received invites for an event on June 18 in Hollywood at an undisclosed location. According to Mary Jo Foley, the PR Firm handling the invites are responsible for the Xbox account (but also Windows and Windows Phone); so the consensus was it would be about Xbox content . The other rumor was that it would be about Microsoft acquiring Yammer. Many say that the event was hastily made. And that between Thursday and now Nokia and Verizon have put out teasers for the same day (which according to a number of sites not related to Microsoft’s event).

As of now, the only thing we know about the event is what its not about; it’s not about Windows Phone (the preview for the next release is two days after the event), Yammer, or Nokia (people are reporting that is about the Nokia 808 coming to America).

Man, it’s like waiting for Christmas.

Okay so I wanted to post my theories about what this event will be about, I’ll begin with the one I’m most certain of.

Theory 1: The event will reveal Xbox Music and Video services along with the announcement of content partners and pricing.

Theory 2: same as Theory One but with the addition of an Xbox TV (similar to the Apple TV) along with talk of apps running on the Xbox.

Theory 3: Yammer buyout (highly unlikely and may cause a riot amongst the reporters assembled)

Theory 4: Trap (I mean you have date and time but no location)

Theory 5: Tablets built on either Windows 8, Windows RT (ARM version), Windows Phone (see here as to why), or other. This theory includes showing off Windows RT tablets or a branded device.

Now my bet is theory one, to me it makes the most sense. But since we are just throwing out wild ideas about a branded tablet, here’s mine.

Microsoft will reveal two tablets, a 8 inch and ten inch model, under the name Codex and/or Courier. They will be Windows RT tablets running a modified metro interface and cost around $199-400. It will be essentially the Courier redesigned and come with a pen. Microsoft will show off its new e-reader/textbook service with tools. The tablets will be aimed at the student market. Microsoft will also say its producing these tablets so developers can have hardware to develop apps on. The tablets will be taking preorders day of event. The tablet UI will look like merger of Windows 8 and the Courier, with Microsoft showing off Microsoft Journal. All apps will be part of Windows 8.

Office labs 5

So Monday will either go down in history or infamy, see you then.

Update: here’s the invite, from Mary Jo Foley

You are invited to an exclusive Microsoft media event in Los Angeles, California on Monday, June 18th.  Doors open at 3:30 PM

images from the Verge and Microsoft

 

8105.Shape%20Logo.png-550x0

 

Put this in the rumor column but Chanel 9, Microsoft’s Developer Outreach Channel, posted a video about making games for the Windows 8 platform; interesting thing is that the video was from a conference called Shape 12 and it appears to be one of the first conferences outside of Build to go in depth about Windows 8. Looking at the site I couldn’t help but wonder if Shape will or could be the name for the conference that replaces MIX. MIX was the developer show Microsoft did annually that was more design and mobile focused. Shape seems to have the same format as the MIX show; with the focus being on application design and mobile. So what do you think is Shape the new MIX

Links

Shape-The App Conference