Nikon signs deal with Microsoft for Android-powered cameras

Nikon has signed a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft that will give them access to the company’s broad portfolio of patents for use with certain Nikon cameras that use the Android platform. A press release noted the contents of the agreement would not be disclosed but Microsoft could receive royalties from Nikon.

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Microsoft general manager of intellectual property licenses said the two companies have a long history of collaboration and this latest agreement further demonstrates the value you place on both IP licenses responsible.

If you remember, Samsung and Nikon announced Android both cameras around the same time last summer. Shooter Samsung Galaxy known as the House, includes a quad-core 1.4 GHz, 8 GB of internal storage and an SD card slot – all powered by Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. One of the key selling points is the ability to share photos wirelessly via Wi-Fi or 3G to social networks and other services.

Nikon S800c arrived on the scene a few months later, but with an updated version of Android – Gingerbread 2.3.3. The camera has the same basic capabilities as the Samsung unit, allowing photographers to instantly share your creations via email, Facebook or simply transfer it to a laptop, smartphone or tablet for editing. The shooter received mediocre reviews in general, as the old operating system, poor battery life and picture quality could have been just half all improved.

With this new agreement, it is quite clear that Nikon is planning to expand its line of Android-powered digital cameras.

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Android users bored..? 17 per cent of new Windows Phone users ditching droids

Windows Phone continues to creep in terms of market share of UK smartphones, but new research suggests that Android is losing the majority of users of Microsoft’s mobile operating system.
Data Worldpanel ComTech Kandar Phone claimedWindows added 700,000 new users in the UK during 2012, representing an increase of 240 percent in the last 12 months.

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However, research indicated that 17 percent of these new users reportedly changed phones like the Nokia Lumia 800 and HTC Windows Phone 8X of those in the Google Android operating system.
That’s more than any other platform other than Symbian (26 percent), which is easily explained by simply updating Nokia loyalists from their older devices running the operating system doomed.
By contrast, 6 percent of Windows Phone BlackBerry jumped ship sinks, while only 2 percent of newcomers to Microsoft’s mobile operating system iOS came through. The other 47 percent were buying their first smartphone.
Android did not suffer too much from the loss of an estimated 119,000 or so users of Windows Phone in 2012, increasing its market share to 56.2 percent. iOS ended 2012 at 30.6 percent, while WP was in third place with just over 6 percent, according to the study.
However, it is interesting that most users apparently lost Android Windows Phone iOS despite their total earnings.
Elemental analysis of the results suggests that iPhone users are more loyal to the platform and less inclined to leave for pastures new, while Android users are less attached and ready to change things up a bit if a new platform intrigues.
Of course, there are more people using Android than any other platform, so that more people can possibly be left for Windows Phone, but the numbers still seem a bit out of place.

(credit TechRadar)

The Post Post-PC Era: Will Apple, Google, Samsung, Amazon Or Microsoft Win?

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Editor’s note: Peter Relan is a formerdeveloper and Oracle’s former VP of Internet Division, a serial entrepreneur since 1998, and a Silicon Valley angel investor. Relan founded YouWeb Incubator in 2007, spinning out a string of successful mobile and gaming companies. Follow him on Twitter @prelan.

Even before Apple’s 10 percent stock dip, it was clear that one battle was already over. Put down your arms – Android has won the smartphone OS marketshare war. The competitive drama of the smartphone battle has already unfolded to a large extent and is well understood: Android dominates unit shipment volumes, while iPhone dominates profits associated with smartphones. It may seem like too early a claim, but history tells us Google’s Android distribution model puts the large part of the smartphone market in its corner. No other OS has seen a reversal of fortune this late in the game (think Windows in the early ’90s and Nokia with feature phones in the early aughts).

And yet, many unknowns remain in the larger post-PC-era war, which has only just begun and has already seen an explosion of devices and form factors, all competing to fill the void of the now-ancient desktop computer: tablets, smartphones, minis, phablets, ultrabooks, hybrid laptops. As the market evolves, these devices will be competing to fulfill niche needs, with certain devices bound to flourish and others bound to fail. A number of factors will influence which device types will survive through 2015:

  1. Consumer and worker choice
  2. Device distribution channels
  3. Platform ecosystems
  4. Technology advances
  5. Economic development in BRIC

1. CONSUMER AND WORKER CHOICE

So what happens to PCs and laptops? The obvious answer is that the tablet will take over, but there are multiple form factors. Current designations include the large tablet, the mini tablet, and the hybrid tablet (think the Microsoft Surface — a tablet with a removable keyboard and OS designed for both leisure and productivity).

Consumers will be sticking to their large and small tablets for email, Facebook and watching movies; let’s call them leisure activities requiring a light and easy-to-use second screen. These home consumers don’t need a physical keyboard nor do they want it, and at a $250-$600 price point, tablets are hard to beat. Hence the success of the iPad. And the iPad mini with a Retina display could even be the “next big thing.” The Nexus 7 is already in the 7.X-inch form factor, so the mini tablet wars are just getting started.

Prosumers on the other hand, use laptops across different use cases: leisure combined with light productivity work, such as creating documents and presentations. Some prosumers might opt for the ultrabook and mini-tablet combo, but for most, the hybrid tablet will play a crucial role in the coming years. The hybrid tablet is where portability meets leisure meets work-related tasks. However, a consumer tablet in the home will still exist for these families.

Professionals tend to follow the same patterns as the prosumer, although they wait for more proven solutions to emerge. With BYOD allowing professionals to make their own choices for leisure, some might opt for the simplicity and ease of the hybrid, allowing them to use their devices for both work and play. On the other hand, there are a large number of professionals who use high-power software and will continue to use laptops or ultrabooks. In this case, power matters, and hybrid tablets won’t reach the necessary threshold before 2014.

Winner: Apple

2. DEVICE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS 

Smartphones. The reason Android phones dominate unit shipments in smartphones is simple: Telecom carriers such as AT&T and Verizon love to give away phones and make money on data plans. Android makes this possible because the OS is free and because hardware manufacturers can commoditize the hardware. Even with the carriers giving away the iPhone 4 now with two-year contracts, the power of distribution channels to carry 50 different Android phone varieties with all kinds of (possibly meaningless) features still wins. More open-source challengers will arrive but are unlikely to take off. But carriers are not the best managers of app stores and ecosystems, which are a critical element of the power for distribution leverage. And Apple remains king here from its curated App Store to its high-traffic Apple Store.

Tablets. Tablets are a different story. The distribution channel is obviously not your phone company, but rather the Apple Store, or your electronics store, or online store. Eighty percent of tablets are Wi-Fi-connected, so the carrier has far weaker distribution power. With the competition playing out in stores rather than through carriers, and with Android again offering a larger spectrum of choices over Apple, this will be a close one. Android has the cheapest, most flexible platform, but being three years behind will be hard to overcome in 2013. Look at schools and enterprises today: the iPad dominates.

Laptops. Although Chrome seems to be at the forefront of Google’s enterprise strategy, when it comes to laptops, the Chromebook doesn’t have the enterprise design chops to dethrone Windows 8 yet. Not to mention Windows is already working on bringing its productivity software to the cloud, which was Google’s Trojan horse. Similar to Android and the carriers, Microsoft has an even longer established presence among laptop manufacturers. The “laptop” channel will be fought out between three operating systems: OS X, Win8 and Chrome. OS X gets a great shot in the enterprise because BYOD brings with it iPhones and iPads.

Winner - Smartphone Carrier

Winner - Smartphone Retail

Winner - Tablets

Winner - Laptops

 

3. PLATFORM ECOSYSTEMS

Apple will continue to dominate the app ecosystem to win the minds of consumers for the “premium” smartphone and tablet market, especially if the iPad mini gets a Retina display. A hybrid tablet is unlikely from Apple, given their distaste for the hybrids produced by the Microsoft camp (although they did say the same about the 7-inch tablet).

Amazon will be the commoditizer of the tablet market with the hope of selling services and content at cheap hardware price points, but 2013 will be a tough year for Kindle as the iPad mini and Android cannibalize the e-Reader, and with Amazon failing to attract a large number of apps to its app store. Music and video will be important, but having software choice is becoming a baseline necessity for consumers. Amazon will find itself in even more trouble when hybrid LCD and e-ink devices hit the market in the coming two years.

Samsung is the one supplier that will drive Android tablet sales and become a strong competitor to the Apple tablets. They have demonstrated the ability to produce a great device with the Galaxy series, and they have both the big tablet and the “phablet” form factor in the market. Plus Samsung is HUGE in Asia, and it owns the entire vertically integrated stack except for the application software ecosystem. Borrowing that from the Android ecosystem works for now. So the real winner of the platform ecosystem remains Google. Samsung only helps to drive volume, and volume attracts developers to Google’s platform since Samsung doesn’t have a developer ecosystem yet.

Microsoft, with the introduction of the Surface this year, has really stumbled onto something. Microsoft will continue working on this hybrid tablet, but inevitably its manufacturing partners will out-innovate the company and Microsoft will do what it does best: sit back and watch someone build their product — just faster and more efficiently.

The “others” are not to be underestimated. Mobile web OSes are the new, new thing. Mozilla and possibly Facebook are trying to figure out how to get the mobile web jump-started. They don’t have app stores and frankly they don’t like app stores. They would love to go back to the future of the web. But HTML5 continues to disappoint them in user experience, so it will be hard to get developers behind the mobile web, at least for another couple of years. In the longer term, the mobile web OSes may well rise to fight the app stores.

Winners: Apple and Google

4. TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES 

There will obviously be advances in both hardware and software over the next two years, but there are three advances that are in development now that will completely change the world of personal devices and technology in general forever: augmented-reality products, smart-home devices and gesture interfaces.

Augmented reality products like Google Glass are the direction in which this kind of innovation is heading. Google Glass has not yet been released and the competition is already gearing up, with Microsoft filing patents for augmented reality glasses set to display real-time information during events. Wearable form factors will change the way business is done and meetings are held; the way we communicate with our loved ones and book plane tickets; the way we see the Internet.

Smart-home devices, such as televisions, are another massive opportunity that have yet to be tackled. With the rumored Apple TV never showing up, this might take longer than expected. Still, we’re seeing early signs of innovation wars coming to the living room.

The gesture interface, kicked off by Xbox Kinect, is picking up steam and should soon be coming to a smart TV near you.

But, none of the above will be the x-factor in the next couple of years.

Winner: Apple TV

5. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN BRIC

Last but certainly not least, the economic development around the world will play an absolutely crucial role to the development and distribution of devices in the post-PC era. The biggest emerging markets – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are exploding as millions move into the middle class. In areas where cost is a major issue, there is incredible opportunity. In India, the feature phone is still by far the most dominant form of phone. And not only phone – it is the most dominant form of Internet access used by consumers. Major suppliers, including NokiaApple and Android OEMs are aggressively duking it out.

All of these markets are expanding, with a massive wealth shift creating millions of newly minted consumers. Apple has its sights set on China, and it is entering India with local (meaning lower) pricing for digital content. But the developing world likely belongs to Android, the most versatile platform in the world working on almost any device in the world (other than Apple, of course).

Winner: Android

CONCLUSION

With the compatibility and accessibility of the Android platform and the move toward mobile-focused UIs, I predict that in 2015 an Android OS will power nearly 70 percent of all computing devices.

Based on the above, it seems as if Google will continue to reign supreme and snatch markets from Apple, Microsoft and Amazon with the help of its partner Samsung.

(Credit: TechCrunch)

The Pros And Cons Of A WebKit Monoculture

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The news that Opera is shutting down the development of its own browser rendering engine and moving to the open source WebKit engine caused quite a stir earlier this week. With WebKit powering the built-in browsers of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, it’s already the de-facto standard engine for mobile and it has the potential to do the same on the desktop. Worldwide, Chrome now holds a considerable lead over Microsoft’s Trident-powered Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Gecko for Firefox already. The question is: are we better off because we have competing engines trying to outdo each other, or would we be better off if all the browser vendors just standardized on WebKit?

As an open source project, WebKit allows all the vendors to contribute and the combined efforts of Google, Apple, Mozilla, Microsoft, Opera and everybody else in the browser ecosystem who may want to contribute could quickly push the web forward. Those in favor of this kind of consolidation on one rendering engine also argue that this wold make life for developers considerably easier, given that they won’t have to work around the quirks of all the competing engines we have today.

As numerous commenters on this Hacker News thread point out, as long as we can trust those in charge of WebKit development to work together to innovate, an all-WebKit web would be a boon for developers and users.

The most vocal opposition to this kind of monoculture has come from Mozilla, which is obviously heavily invested in its own Gecko engine and Servo, its forthcoming successor. Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich argues that monoculture is a problem Mozilla must fight because of its mission. Adding to this, Mozilla engineer Steve Fink argued that an all-WebKit web – both on mobile and desktop – would prevent innovation and lead to a small number of companies controlling the web as a platform and just lead to added complexity and confusion in the long run.

Given that WebKit is an open source project, though, it could easily be forked if development stalled or one of the stakeholders started to block important changes for political reasons.

From Google's Chrome Launch Comic Book

From Google’s Chrome Launch Comic Book

On the Web, of course, we went through a period of stagnation thanks the total dominance of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer during the days of IE5 and IE6 (and the demise of Netscape and the 5-year lag between the launch of IE6 in 2001 and IE7 in 2006). On the other hand, the arrival of competition from Firefox starting around 2004 and Google’s WebKit-based Chrome in 2008 – with the stated mission to push the development of web standards, rendering engines and especially JavaScript performance forward – undoubtedly helped to turn the web into the powerful platform we are now used to.

Web vs. Apps

Even Opera, in its own announcement, argued that “monoculture is bad,” but then also added a somewhat defeatist note to this, saying that it “was never really in a position to prevent it in the first place,” because despite its considerable market share on mobile, “web developers still designed just for WebKit.”

The interesting twist in Opera’s argument, however, is that the real competition isn’t between browsers and rendering engines. Instead, it’s about the web competing with native apps. Opera’s move, the company argues, is more about the fully open web competing with “the closed world of ‘apps’” and switching to WebKit allows it to counter this more effectively.

Developers Care, But What About Users?

Ideally, of course, all the different vendors would just implement the same standard to the same specs and developers wouldn’t have to worry about which rendering engine will display their code. It would always look the same. Sadly, that’s obviously not what happens given that every implementation has its own quirks.

Most users obviously also don’t care about how exactly a given site or web app is rendered. To them, a browser is basically the chrome around the rendering engines. That’s where the features live that users care about (bookmarking, plugins, tabs etc.). Those are also the features that get users to switch (assuming speed remains comparable).

Mozilla argues that the best way to push those features forward is to control the browser stack from top to bottom. The WebKit-only proponents argue that Mozilla and Co. could just focus on bringing the best features to their users if they only let go of this notion.

Personally, I think having a few competing engines that all implement the same standard will lead to a faster innovation cycle. The web is still in a phase where that is more important than consolidating on a single engine. This involves extra work and may even break things at times, but it’s worth the effort in the long run.

Microsoft Takes Outlook.com Out Of Preview, Starts Migrating Hotmail Users And Launches “Massive” New Marketing Campaign

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Six months after its initial launch, the preview ofOutlook.com, Microsoft’s free webmail service that is meant to replace the aging Hotmail brand and design, now has over 60 million active users according to the company’s own data. Today, Microsoft is officially taking Outlook.com out of preview and will start prompting its 360 million Hotmail users to switch to the new service (while keeping their old email addresses). Microsoft expects to switch all Hotmail users to the new interface and platform by the summer.

Now that Outlook.com is out of preview, Microsoft is also launching a massive new marketing campaign for the service in the U.S., and the company tells me this will be the “largest ever” for a free webmail service. This campaign, which will include TV ads and a number of digital-only videos, will have a very upbeat tone and will not be based on the recent Scroogled campaign. Instead, the new ads focus on Outlook.com’s features and how it plays well with the rest of Microsoft’s suite of online tools, including, for example, SkyDrive.

As Microsoft’s senior director of product management, Dharmesh Mehta told me earlier this week, his team spent the last six months working on scaling the service and preparing it for this transition. Similar to what Microsoft is doing with its migration from Windows Live Messenger to Skype, the transition will be optional at first and become mandatory later on. Unlike the Messenger/Skype switch, Microsoft isn’t staggering the upgrade by geographic location, though. Hotmail users can switch at any time over the next few months. At some point in the future, this switch will become mandatory, but the timing for this remains up in the air.

Microsoft, it is worth noting, always gave Hotmail users the option to move to the new Outlook.com, but it will now actively prompt users to do so and also email them to remind them that they can switch.

Mehta acknowledged that email is “historically a very slow-moving category.” People don’t generally switch between email services very often and are even less likely to abandon their addresses in favor of a new service. Outlook.com, he stressed, lets you keep your Gmail address if you want to switch (over one-third of Outlook.com’s 60 million active users, Microsoft says, switched from Gmail) and current Hotmail users will obviously be able to keep their old @hotmail.com, @msn.com and @live.com addresses.

According to Mehta, Microsoft believes that it now has a very competitive webmail client with features that are on par with Gmail, the service that stole Hotmail’s crown as the most popular free email service. Now that Gmail is becoming more and more complicated, he told me, is a “good opportunity to push people out of their complacency” and get them to try something new.

Microsoft is clearly not shying away from the Gmail comparison. In its press materials for today’s announcement, for example, the company argues that it’s been nine years since Gmail disrupted the email space “and did something basic and offered 1 GB mailboxes. “Things are different today than they were in 2004,” Microsoft writes. “We use new communication services, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and we have a much greater appreciation for well-designed and well-connected systems.”

Hotmail was obviously a pioneer in the webmail businesses, but over time, @hotmail.com addresses lost their luster as it was eclipsed by its competitors like Gmail. Outlook.com, on the other hand, is a very modern webmail client with numerous smart features like sweep (to quickly clean up your inbox) and active views (to track packages, etc.). Some Hotmail users will obviously dislike the change to the modern, flat interface. Overall, however, this is clearly a major upgrade to Hotmail and may just allow Microsoft to once again compete in this space.

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outlook.com inbox

BlackBerry still ahead of Windows Phone, even before the launch of BB10

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Android continues to dominate the smartphone arena, while fighting between BlackBerry and Windows Phone starts to warm up, according to the latest statistics from IDC. It’s no secret that Android is the biggest mobile operating system and from the last three months of 2012, the Google platform apparently made ​​a huge represented 70.1 percent of the smartphone market. Apple’s iOS still comfortably in second place with a market share of 21 percent, but that is 2 percent less than the same period of 2011. As expected BlackBerry witnessed the biggest drop between the fourth quarters from 2011 to 2012, with its 8.1 percent share dropped to 3.2 percent at the end of last year. However the BlackBerry OS still remains in third place, just ahead of Windows Phone that is growing and now controls a 2.5 percent stake in the market.
BlackBerry will be hoping to regain some lost ground this year on the back of its new BlackBerry 10 platform, while Microsoft will continue the push your Windows 8. But anyone can take Android?

(via TechRadar)

Skype video display messages that you can send a clip to a friend

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Skype Video, Messaging Service is developing right now, so you start the program you want to send a clip to a friend. The feature allows you to send someone a video message up to three minutes long, you can see the next time they connect. It’s like a visual version of the voice message. Or you can send a pre-recorded message to someone who is already online. Skype is now launching a handful of countries, including the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and is seeking comment before launching full. It will be a part of the latest version of Skype for Mac, Android or iOS. Windows absent, especially considering that Microsoft owns Skype – although anyone using Skype on Windows Phone or Windows will be able to view the messages by clicking on a link. They just will not be able to send. The feature will eventually find its way on all platforms Skype works. A spokesman for Skype will not be called when you get Windows function. They told The Verge were “satisfied there is interest for video messaging to reach Skype for Windows and Skype for Windows 8”, and that they would “know” when you expand the Microsoft OS.

Via AllThingsD, TechRadar, The Verge