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Xbox: The new face of ‘entertainment’ at Microsoft, beyond just video games

The most striking takeaway from a recent meeting I had with Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson wasn’t the Spotify-like service he was in New York City to show off, but rather what he said about a much larger internal change at Microsoft. Having been relegated to the world of video games for the past decade, Microsoft is opening up its Xbox branding to a larger world of media. “‘Xbox’ is actually going from thinking about gaming in a device to being the entertainment face for all of Microsoft,” Johnson said — a major change from the Xbox name’s place as a stand-in for “the Halo and Gears of War box,” trotted out once or twice annually by lower level execs from the Washington-based software giant. “That’s what the company — all the way up to Steve Ballmer — have gotten behind. That’s why you’re gonna see movies on Windows 8 slates, you’re gonna see music, and it’s gonna be branded as ‘Xbox.’,” he explained. This naming convention carries to Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 RT as well — all post-Windows 7 Microsoft devices (and Xbox 360) will refer to music and video libraries as “Xbox Music” and “Xbox Video,” respectively.

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Windows Phone 8 SDK gets leaked and peeked (video)

Microsoft announces Windows Phone 8 SDK preview program, Windows Phone Store to replace Marketplace

While Microsoft’s freshest Mobile OS is still a few weeks away from its big debut, versions of its SDK have begun to crop up online. The peeps over at WPCentral have snagged build 9900 of the software and are offering up a video tour of the reasonably-finished setup. It’s not clear if this is a fully-loaded edition or if we’re going to see a few more surprises if / when it launches next month, but if you’d care to see for yourself, check out the video after the break.


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Windows Phone 8X by HTC: 4.3-inch 720p display, LTE, dual-core S4, available this November

Windows Phone 8X by HTC unveiled 43inch 720p Super LCD 2 display, dualcore 15GHz S4, LTE, Beats Audio, available for $199 this November

Consider this Microsoft’s ultimate blessing, or merely a way to guarantee household name recognition. Whatever the case, the company’s next-gen Apollo OS is not only powering HTC’s newest mobile movement, it’s also the headliner. That’s right, as clunky as it may initially seem, Windows Phone 8X is the official moniker of the OEM’s brightly hued flagship series, an alphabetical denomination that puts it on premium standing with the One X line. And thanks to the loosened spec restraints made possible by WP8, this modern-minded, unibodied beaut reps a 4.3-inch 1280 x 720 Super LCD 2 display with Gorilla Glass 2 coating, dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 processor buffered by 1GB RAM, 16GB of internal storage, WiFi a/b/g/n, NFC and an integrated 1,800mAh Li-ion battery. There’s also quadband radio support for GSM/GPRS/EDGE, HSPA/WCDMA (850, 900, 1900, 2100MHz) and, of course, LTE for stateside carriers.

Though the 8X may share the same boldly colored, polycarbonate construction of its live-tiled Lumia frenemies, it also stands apart with the inclusion of two HTC-specific features: Beats Audio, replete with a built-in amplifier, and ImageChip for continuous shooting. And speaking of optics, this device’s dual camera setup packs the combined punch of a 2.1-megapixel front-facer with 88-degree ultra-wide-angle lens and an 8-megapixel rear module with an f/2.0 lens accompanied by a single LED flash — both capable of 1080p video capture.

While the veil of mystery surrounding this latest tech industry collaboration may have just lifted, you’ll still have to wait a bit before it heads to retail. After all, Microsoft’s planning its own WP8 coming out party for late October — a reveal that should finally give us a full look at the smartphone UI formerly known as Metro. With a ship date set for sometime this November, the 8X will be available in four distinct colors – California Blue, Graphite Black, Flame Red and Limelight Yellow — on over 150 carriers worldwide. No word on final pricing as of yet. So, until then, sate yourself with this first taste

HTC announces Windows Phone 8S: a mid-range Microsoft handset for the fashion conscious

HTC announces Windows Phone 8S a midrange Microsoft handset for the fashion conscious

The Windows Phone 8 era is swinging into full effect. Nokia’s big launch event was only a few short weeks ago, now HTC is enjoying its time in the spotlight with two handsets of its own. The Windows Phone 8S makes no mystery of its platform choice and, like the One S, indicates its midrange status with a simple alphabetic suffix. This four-inch phone will be shipping with HSPA on board. Unfortunately there’s no word on an LTE edition of this rather handsome device. Spec-wise, the WVGA screen leaves us a little wanting, but we appreciate the combination of Super LCD and Gorilla Glass, which should make for a contrasty and scratch resistant panel. Under the hood is a dual-core S4 clocked at 1GHz, which is hardly a speed demon by todays standards, but should be enough to keep Microsoft’s streamlined OS humming along nicely. The CPU is augmented by 512MB of RAM, which isn’t any beefier than most Mango phones prepping for retirement.

A paltry 4GB of storage is baked in, but thankfully HTC saw fit to include a microSD slot for expansion. Those rather modest internals should help the handset make the most of the 1,700 mAh battery at least. Sadly, the Taiwanese manufacturer decided to skip a front-facing cam on its entry level device and the sensor around back is only 5MP and limited to 720p video capture. At 10.28mm thick the 8S isn’t the sleekest handset, but the tapered edges make look quite a bit thinner than that measurement would indicate. There’s no denying the appeal of the two-tone polycarbonate bodies, regardless of comparative girth, which feature soft touch finishes in veritable rainbow of options. Pricing has yet to be announced, but you can expect the 8S to hit shelves in early November on a number of carriers.

Nokia Lumia 820 hands-on (update: now with video)

DNP Nokia Lumia 820 handson

Nokia’s Lumia 820 is here, after countless leaks, and the budget-friendly handset is exactly what we expected. We’ll admit we’re sad to see the rather singular design of its spiritual forebear, the Lumia 800, fall by the wayside, but we can’t complain about the build quality here. The usual attention to detail and materials we’ve come to appreciate from the Finnish phone maker is on full display. The flat glass panel on the front may lack the mystique of the curved display on the 920 and 800, but it’s hardly something that should factor into your decision to buy this handset or another. The ceramic volume rocker and lock button on the right side have a pleasant and satisfying click, though we’re sad to report that the camera button still leaves us wanting. Sure, any dedicated camera key is better than none, but its squishy response to our press was hardly encouraging. At least Nokia had the good grace to upgrade to a dual-stage solution. We were also a bit put off by the shine of the body. The Lumia series stole our hearts with its matte finish when it first debuted; now the glossy exterior is more likely to throw some glare and attract fingerprints. The new plastic also feels quite a bit lighter in the hand, which makes the 820 feel more like the midrange device it is and less like the premium handset it’s succeeding.

What’s under the hood certainly makes up for some of those shortcomings. The 1.5 GHz dual-core processor with 1GB RAM simply chewed through the lightweight Windows Phone 8, leaving us to wonder if Apple and Google can truly keep up. All of the UI animations were smooth and fluid, and apps launched with nary a hiccup. And, can we just say that Windows Phone 8 is an absolute pleasure to use. At the risk of angering quite a few people — there’s simply no mid-range Android phone or iOS device that’s as quick and satisfying to use as the Lumia 820, and much of that is thanks to the highly optimized Microsoft OS. It’s a pleasure to see that new features like the customizable home screen and background multitasking haven’t weighed down Redmond’s phone platform. And things will likely only get better as the final wrinkles are ironed out and bugs are squashed. But, as we all know, speed and smooth animations alone don’t make a device — Microsoft will have to convince developers to support its still fledgling platform.

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Nokia Lumia 920 hands-on: the dual-core, HD Windows Phone 8 flagship to take on the beasts

Nokia Lumia 920 handson the dualcore, HD Windows Phone 8 flagship to take on the beasts

It’s official. Nokia’s just taken the wraps off its worst-kept Windows Phone 8 secret: the Lumia 920. The device, announced at the manufacturer’s event in New York City today, is a spiritual successor to the 900 that first broke onto American shores and can largely be seen as a response to critics of that former device. With a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU (the same one that drives the current US supremos, the HTC One X and Galaxy S III), a “better than HD” 1,280 x 768 LCD display, PureView imaging (albeit with only eight megapixels), NFC capabilities, 2,000mAh battery with wireless charging and a next-gen Redmond-baked OS, this handset’s a big-break proposition for the flailing Finnish company; an attempt to up the ante and compete on even ground. From the outside, it may appear as though not much has changed in this generational hardware leap, but rest assured that what Espoo’s packed inside should take the mobile outfit to the next level. So, follow on after the break as we dive into our first impressions of this curiously hued smartphone splash.

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Nokia Lumia 920 official: Dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 8MP PureView camera, Windows Phone 8 (video)

Nokia Lumia 920 official Dualcore 15GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 8MP rear PureView camera, Windows Phone 8

It was only this past spring that Nokia crashed onto the US smartphone scene to stake its claim and make inroads into consumers’ minds and hearts. Now, just five months later, the Finnish company’s poised to overtake the buzz of its fledgling, former Windows Phone flagship, with what many consider to be a true high-end contender: the Lumia 920.

As one of the first Windows Phone 8 devices to be officially announced, this device augments Espoo’s line with a larger, curved 4.5-inch PureMotion HD+ display, dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 CPU, 2,000mAh battery, NFC, integrated wireless charging and an 8-megapixel rear PureView camera capable of 1080p video. The display packs WXGA (1,280 x 768) resolution, is 25 percent brighter than the next best panel on the market and it’s the fastest LCD that Nokia has ever shipped on a smartphone. What’s more, the screen also boasts what Nokia calls “Super Sensitive Touch,” which promises to let you use it even when wearing gloves or mitts.

As you can tell from its humpless back, this PureView is not that of the 41-megapixel variety — it’s merely all about the branding, as the moniker will now ring synonymous with “high-end cameras.” Despite that fall from 808 grace, Nokia’s Head of Imaging Damian Dinning has assured detractors the magic is in what’s done with the optics and pixels and not sheer gargantuan sampling size. To wit, the 920 employs a “floating lens,” which, in layman’s terms, translates into hardware image stabilization and also packs impressive low-light capabilities — an area the company’s seems squarely focused upon.

In a true return to form, the 920 also hearkens back to the Lumia that started it all, opting for the “sinuous tapering” that debuted on the 800 with glass edges that blend gently into the polycarbonate hull. Unfortunately, not all of that design language has made the transition, given its chassis now appears glossier and more polished, distancing itself from that premium matte finish. Still, as looks go, the handset’s keeping to its 900 origins, appearing nigh indistinct from its predecessor save for that attention-grabbing mellow yellow hue.And as a bonus, Nokia’s imbued the device with integrated wireless charging, based on the Qi standard, which corroborates those leaks we saw just last week. The Lumia 920 will arrive in pentaband LTE and HSPA+ variants and both are expected to ship “in selected markets” later this year.

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Windows Phone 8 detailed: dual cores, Skype Integration and NFC are a go

Windows Phone

If you thought Mango was the bee’s knees, just wait till you get a hold of Apollo. No, seriously, keep waiting ’cause we have no idea when that will happen. While we still can’t say when Windows Phone 8 will be making its way to a handset near you, we do have quite a few new details about the mobile OS courtesy of the folks over at PocketNow. The site managed to snag a copy of a video starring Windows Phone manager Joe Belfiore talking about what’s coming in the next major revision. Those of you concerned with Microsoft’s inability to go toe to toe with Apple and Google on specs can breathe a bit easier as new screen resolutions (four in total) and dual-core CPUs will be supported, while those clamoring for more storage will be happy to hear that microSD support has returned — this time in an official capacity. Rounding out the new hardware features will be NFC support, including the Beam-like ability to share content by tapping, though, it’ll have the advantage of being able to share with Windows 8 based tablets and laptops as well. And, speaking of Windows 8, its similarly numbered, phone-centric sibling won’t just share a UI, it’ll have many of the core components, including large chunks of the kernel, networking stack and security features — which should make porting apps from the desktop to the handset a relatively simple affair.

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Nokia's Windows Phones will feature dual-core ST-Ericsson U8500, says STMicroelectronics chief

As you’ll no doubt be aware, Qualcomm currently enjoys a stranglehold on processing hardware inside Windows Phone handsets. Its Snapdragon chip stars in both Microsoft’s original and updated chassis spec for the platform, but its hegemony may soon be coming to an end. STMicroelectronics (the ST in ST-Ericsson) boss Carlo Bozotti is cited by Forbes as saying that Nokia will use ST-Ericsson hardware to power at least some of its Windows Phones. The dual-core U8500, a long-time Nokia favorite, is touted as the first such system-on-chip to appear, with its successors helping to populate Nokia’s expansive WP lineup in 2012. The only intel we’ve had so far on Nokia’s initial handsets for the new OS revolved around Qualcomm-based devices, so even if ST-Ericsson is indeed going to infiltrate the Windows Phone ecosystem, it doesn’t look likely to be among the very first Nokias out of the gate.


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