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Conspicuously Missing Apps Finally Coming to Windows 8

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Conspicuously Missing Apps Finally Coming to Windows 8

There is no doubt that I have been a major proponent of Windows 8 since its initial inception. As a developer, the new Windows Store APIs for .NET make things very easy, truly shortening the development cycle, far below the other mobile platforms. As a designer, the style guidelines, based on Staatliches Bauhaus principles, make for elegant, easy to navigate user experiences. As a user, centralizing common tasks makes it easy to know how to do those activities, such as changing application settings or searching for content.

With all of that said, there has been one thing that has truly been holding back Windows 8, and more importantly Windows RT - its application catalog. While there are tons of new apps being added to the store every day, there is a list of conspicuously missing applications. This week's //Build conference in San Francisco brought to light a collection of those applications that are coming in the near to undetermined future.

Facebook

This one is probably the most important, as it the most visited website on the Internet. While there are dozens of unofficial, half-hearted Facebook apps available in the store, the launch of an official application will certainly help the overall experience of Windows 8. Until now, the official answer from Microsoft was to pin Facebook's website to the Start screen, but having a native app is always better.

The only way they could screw this up is to implement the modern UI style as poorly as Twitter has. While the application is usable, it certainly doesn't follow any of the official design guidelines, which is disappointing. My hope is that Facebook's implementation will be similar to the Windows Phone 8 application and less like Twitter. There is no announced availability date.

Foursquare

While I have no doubt few people will be checking in on their Windows 8 tablets, the ability to research new places through your tablet and revisit places you and your friends have been is an ability that seems wonderfully useful. From what has been shown off of the application thus far, it is clearly a genuinely native application, using the live tile concept beautifully throughout the application, including user photos and recommendations interlaced with photos on the venue details page.

The actual written content conforms to the design guideline document perfectly, and would be a great application to use as the shining example of what modern applications should look like. There is no announced availability date.

While these two are the glaringly obvious titles, there are many more. Hit the break to read about some of the other big-name apps coming to Windows 8 now and in the future.

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FCC to Approve Sprint-Clearwire Merger, Spectrum Intact

posted Saturday Jun 29, 2013 by Scott Ertz

FCC to Approve Sprint-Clearwire Merger, Spectrum Intact

Things are starting to look a little less positive for DISH Network's bid for Clearwire, as the FCC is set to approve the Sprint-Clearwire deal. Not only will Sprint be allowed to purchase the remaining portion of the ailing wireless network that it currently owns about half of, but most surprisingly, the FCC is rumored to announce that Sprint will be able to retain all of Clearwire's spectrum.

Often when one large carrier purchases another entirely, spectrum must be left behind in certain markets because of overall market penetration. For example, when Verizon Wireless purchased Alltel a few years ago, spectrum in certain key markets was forced to be sold off to prevent Verizon from owning too much of the market. Often times, with the transfer of spectrum is the transfer of customers as well.

In this case, while the transfer of customers would be annoying, the transfer of spectrum would be the deciding factor on whether or not the deal is worth it for Sprint to complete. Sprint's business reasons for purchasing Clearwire is certainly not for the customer base, of which there is very little. Instead, it is the ability for Sprint to continue operating its WiMax network for the remaining time they have promised, plus use Clearwire's existing spectrum to enhance its own growing LTE network. The requirement to transfer spectrum to another carrier could make the deal less than worthless to the third largest national carrier.

All-in-all, this is good news for Sprint, and less than good news for DISH Network, who has put in a competing bid for Clearwire. Both bids are way above the company's theoretic value, but way below the cost and effort for either company to build out their own wireless networks, of which DISH Network has none. This is not a total loss for DISH Network, however, as they have also put in a bid for Sprint itself.

While the decision is far from official, the draft is reportedly distributed to FCC Commissioners right now. We expect to see the decision finalized in the coming weeks.

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FAA Advisory Panel Might Lighten Up Restrictions on Electronics Usage

posted Thursday Jun 27, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

FAA Advisory Panel Might Lighten Up Restrictions on Electronics Usage

Almost a year ago we talked about the FAA finally looking over data about electronic usage during flights from take-off to touchdown. The results showed that nobody can really prove that turning on your Kindle will make the 100 ton jets come crashing to the ground, but on the flip side, nothing could prove that, given certain circumstances, the plane couldn't be affected, either. Of course, none of this matters to anyone outside of the US, as they can use almost any device as they wish, at any time during the flight; that is, until they hit 10 miles from our borders. So, where does all of this leave us? Well, given it's the FAA, we finally have an update!

It appears that the United States will be able to see the light of the rest of the currently connected-in-air world, as the FAA should be passing new guidelines that will allow the use of most electronic gadgets during a flight. Specifically, the association will be lessening the restrictions on which devices can be used under 10,000 feet after the cabin door has been shut. As of right now, "industry officials and draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to FAA" show that the FAA will be cool with you using things with batteries during the entire duration of your flight, however cell phones could still be on the no-no list.

FAA spokesperson, Les Dorr, said,

Basically the panel is looking at a range of portable electronic devices, including computers and portable cameras. What the panel was not charged with was the use of voice communications.

This advisory panel to the FAA notified said group that the aircraft we have in the skies now are not simply a lightweight metal box that only uses radio to communicate to air traffic controllers. Instead, because of technology and innovation, the aircraft in the skies today are so complex and high-tech that the panel has told the FAA that the planes can handle a some MP3 tunes and readings of Fifty Shades of Grey during take-off and landing. Also, in the past, the FAA has allowed each airline to set and dictate its own policies on device usage and which devices are approved. This panel will set a standard that all airlines will have to abide by, so hopefully it'll be something that benefits the consumer and technology. And in the case of cell phones, it is expected that use of your cell phone will be permitted, however with the device set to "Airplane Mode" to turn off the cell tower radios in the phone. Anybody who has flown lately who has been advised to turn their phone completely off rather than simply set it to the mode that is labeled to the object in which they are being transported in will certainly understand the frustration and sheer confusion of the rules and policies in place now.

The FAA says the panel will be deciding on the new list of devices and rules through the end of September, where they will make a recommendation to the FAA, who will then decide the fate of our e-flying future.

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Will King IPO be Another Zynga

posted Friday Jun 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Will King IPO be Another Zynga

Since social gaming company King replaced Zynga in the top spot for social gaming usage, King has decided that this would be a great time for it to begin its initial public offering (IPO) process. The company has hired some banks to begin the process, meaning we could see their IPO as early as the end of this year.

While it may seem like a good idea to the company to take advantage of the publicity to try and succeed in the public market, I have a prediction that this will be another Zynga. There are, obviously, a number of similarities between the companies. The fact that they are both social/mobile developers is certainly a good starting point. There is only so much money available in the free-to-play with micro-transaction ecosystem, and that number is a lot smaller today because of EA's brilliant decisions.

Another reason for my belief is this quote from Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter ,

My guess is that the IPO will be small, probably only 10 to 20 percent of the outstanding stock. That means supply will be small, and demand might be pretty big, so I doubt that the IPO will be disappointing.

In my experience, if Pachter says it will succeed, it is destined to fail. This is the guy who claimed going into E3 that there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY we could possibly see EA talk about any Star Wars titles, despite the fact that several were nearing completion when Disney transferred the development rights to EA. Clearly not a man with his ear to the ground.

Jesse Divinch, VP of EEDAR, seems to have a more realistic view of the world.

But just because Zynga couldn't sustain its ecosystem, that shouldn't be entirely applicable to King. But it certainly provides a history lesson for King and for us all. Certainly, though, King can capitalize on its existing user base for a good three years with little effort.

Long-term, it will come down to game quality and whether King can grow or even sustain their current success. Anytime your revenue is attached to a large casual user base - even if they are addicted to your games - you should be concerned about how to maintain loyalty overtime.

Incredibly cautious optimism is a good way to look at this. King does not seem to be plagued by the poor management and bad business decisions, such as Facebook exclusivity in a rising mobile market, that Zynga was going into their IPO. My prediction is that King will do better than Zynga did, but not by a huge amount. Luckily they aren't following in Groupon or Facebook's shadow, both being bigger failures than Zynga.

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Google Gets Threatened Again, This Time by France

posted Friday Jun 21, 2013 by Scott Ertz

Google Gets Threatened Again, This Time by France

Is there a point where Google will stop doing things that get them into legal trouble? Between an FTC investigation and imminent antitrust suit, a disaster with their street view cars stealing data and, of course, bypassing Safari's security settings, it seems like they are always up to some stupid game. This week seems like it will not the a legal slowdown for the company, however, as the government of France has issued an ultimatum to the company.

France's National Commission for Computing and Civil Liberties has issued a 90 warning against the search giant to change its privacy policy or face fines of $595,000. Google changed their privacy policy to a universal, all property policy that covers everything from Gmail to YouTube and search. One of the initial concerns over the policy change was the amount of data that Google collects about its users and how long it keeps it for.

Apparently this has caused France to challenge the policy officially, because these are exactly the issues raised in the complaint. Combined with Google's possible willingness to participate in the PRISM spy program, there should definitely be concern from everybody about the types of data Google is collecting and for how long they have it.

While the fine might not sound like a lot for a company of Google's size, the rest of the story is what is truly important. If Google fails to comply with France, every European nation will file similar complaints, most of which will not ask for such a small dollar amount. If they all don't comply, we will see a threat of removing Google from European Internet providers. THAT will certainly hurt the company quickly.

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Microsoft Partners Up to Launch Exclusive Windows Store Deal with Best Buy

posted Friday Jun 21, 2013 by Nicholas DiMeo

Microsoft Partners Up to Launch Exclusive Windows Store Deal with Best Buy

If you haven't been noticing, Microsoft has been opening up a bunch of Microsoft Stores around the country and even internationally. With over 50 locations in 3 countries, the software giant has solidified itself as the new, cool, hip company where you can walk in and play with their latest gadgets. Now, Microsoft is looking to expand even more directly into Apple territory by opening up what they are calling the Windows Store, which will be featured exclusively at Best Buy, at least here in the states.

Going with the store-within-a-store approach, 500 Best Buy locations throughout the US will host the Windows Store, and 100 Best Buy and Future Shop stores will play host to the Windows Store in Canada. Microsoft says the footprint will range anywhere from 1,500 to 2,200 square feet and will serve as a prime location for customers to put their hands on products and accessories, from Windows tablets, PCs and versions of Microsoft Office to Windows Phones and new Xbox products. If you're thinking, "why Best Buy?" you probably haven't been keeping up with the fact that the yellow tag store has decided to shrink its aisle-space for DVDs, leaving much room for Microsoft to step in.

Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer of Microsoft, spoke in confidence of the company's plans with this mini-store mentality outside of their routine big shopping malls up to now.

Well, unlike a lot of store-within-a-store concepts, this will actually be a department-level takeover within Best Buy stores. And they will be massive in size, up to 2,200 square feet in some locations. The other unique thing about the Windows Store is the people. There will be an additional 1,200 staff on hand to provide a great customer experience, whether it's choosing the right PC or showing consumers how to stream Xbox music through their Surface. Finally, the online experience should be fantastic. We'll have a full online Windows Store experience that will mirror the in-store look-and-feel and offer a full range of Microsoft products, even those from other places in the Best Buy store.

And on the differences of the Windows Store at Best Buy versus the Microsoft Stores in the malls, Capossela said that this is just another outreach with the same expectations as a Microsoft Store.

Well, first of all, we're committed to our Microsoft Stores. With 68 stores open in North America, we're seeing great success in our growing network. The Windows Store at Best Buy is really just another great opportunity to reach customers in more places and give them choice in their technology-buying experience. We've taken learnings from the Microsoft Store into the Windows Store at Best Buy, and we ultimately feel this is another great channel to offer a superior experience for the millions of customers who rely on Best Buy to purchase their PCs.

Regardless of my feelings of Best Buy at times, it is nice to see Microsoft finally having more places to show off all of the highlights from each and every product line the company has to offer. Sometimes, as Microsoft has seen, the third-party manufacturers don't do the best of jobs at getting their message across about Windows products. Now, Microsoft can continue to control the exact message they're trying to relay. Stores will be launching this summer and locations have not been disclosed yet.

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