Microsoft’s Next Desktop Operating System Release Will Undo Windows 8 Mistakes


Microsoft is reportedly planning on going back to the basics with its next major desktop operating system release. Windows 8 should have been the biggest learning lesson for the software giant. The next release of Windows is currently scheduled to arrive for general consumers by spring 2015.

Codenamed Windows “Threshold”, the OS might just be labelled Windows 9 when it launches. The Microsoft Operating Systems Group is currently hard at work, trying to make a big attempt to bring back loyal Windows users to the desktop.

Several rumors have started floated around that point towards a more desktop based approach for the next OS release. A lot of new features are being carved out that will help desktop users gain more control, and improve the overall user experience for Windows users.

That’s interesting, since Microsoft gave birth to a whole new user interface with Windows 8 that focussed more on a touch and keyboard based control. Will Windows 9 roll back to a more traditional desktop user interface? It sure looks that way. It’ll be interesting to see how the company justifies it. We might just see two different versions of the OS — touch based and non-touch based — just to please most users.

Windows 9 is expected to look and feel different, according to recent reports. Hybrid devices are likely to support both desktop and Metro designed interfaces, while simple desktops will fall back to a more desktop-friendlier user interface. However the mobile edition of Windows 9 is unlikely to come with a desktop environment for obvious reasons.

This means Microsoft is undoing a lot of UI and UX mistakes it committed with the Windows 8, when it first launched. A lot of product basics will also be done right, for desktop. This primarily translates into better support for devices that carry the conventional keyboard and mouse combination for input. Non-touch friendly devices are likely to experience a much better interface with Windows 9.

Now that Windows “Threshold” is slated for a spring 2015 release, there’s not much room for multiple Windows 8 or Windows 7 service pack and other updates. There’s one crucial update for Windows 8.1 that’s still pending, we should expect it later this summer.

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How The Football World Cup 2014 Made Its Impact On Major Social Media Platforms


Social media usage has exploded over the last couple of years. From being a desktop-only luxury to a mobile-powered highly addictive segment of the world wide web, social media has come a long way. Social media refers to the platform of social apps and services that connect users across multiple platforms.

The growth has led to several new opportunities for all segments of the market. Sporting events are the latest craze when it comes to power packed social media usage. The recent football World Cup held in Brazil broke all previous records for sporting events on social media, while setting some new ones. The usage of mobile apps on smartphones has further sparked the growth of content being posted on social platforms.

Officially, the football World Cup of 2014 has become the most talked about event in the history of social media. Online interactions amongst fans accounted for over 300 million unique posts on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, apart from others.

On Twitter alone, the World Cup 2014 set a brand new record for the most tweets posted in a minute. The final match between Germany and Argentina saw over 619,727 people using Twitter at the full-time whistle during the game, making it the highest tweets per minute event on Twitter.

The previous record was also established at the World Cup 2014 when Germany defeated Brazil with a massive 7-1 score, during which around 580,000 tweets were recorded by Twitter. That match still holds the record for the maximum tweets posted during any sporting event — 65.6 million, while the final match ended up with around a little over 32 million tweets.

On Facebook, the numbers weren’t as high as Twitter owing to its non real-time nature but it still managed to record some massive user postings. The world’s biggest social network recorded around 280 million interactions amongst 88 million users during the World Cup final. Each interaction comprises of an event when a user posts, likes a particular post, or further shares it across their personal network.

That has broken the record on Facebook for the most number of interaction during a sporting event, the previous record for which was set during the last year’s Super Bowl event in the United States. In US alone, around 10.5 million people talked about the football World Cup 2014 on Facebook. Other countries that contributed to the massive record include Brazil, Argentina, Germany, and even Indonesia.

That’s not alone, almost every social media platform recorded a significant number in terms of overall usage and user interactions. Most of them haven’t gone public with their usage numbers yet, but one can easily make out by just visiting the platforms how the football World Cup has had a strong impact. E-commerce stores were also quick in embracing the football fever, so much that they had special discounts and products being offered on social platforms during the event.

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How Amazon Is Enticing Developers To Create Apps For The Fire Phone?


Amazon introduced its much talked about smartphone — Fire phone — this month. Till the launch, the company’s primary business model of selling most of its hardware products has been to sell at a lower margin, hope for massive sales, and make more money off content and services than the device itself.

With the Fire phone it’s looking to somewhat change that image. The Fire phone isn’t priced as a low-margin, affordable device. Instead its pricing matches with that of the iPhone in the US. At $199 under contract, the Fire phone really needs to entice developers to get on board to ensure users can think about the device as being a flagship model. The company did compare its camera to the iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 during the announcement.

To start with, the company has already released SDKs for the Fire phone to developers. The Fire Phone SDK is made up of two separate packages. The first package is for the Firefly functionality, while the second is for Dynamic Perspective. The former includes the needed libraries and examples for developers to get started right away. Currently it supports Java based apps only.

The second package of the SDK is focussed on Dynamic Perspective. It includes access to the head tracking technology, and other motion sensors that have been embedded into the Fire phone. It’ll be interesting to see what third party developers can come up with to make the most of these features. The second part of the SDK also includes a library of other features on the phone.

That’s not all. Amazon is also giving away 500,000 Amazon Coins, valued at around $5,000 for developers to give to their app users for each paid app or an app with in-app purchases. This should allow developers to market their apps to potential users. Amazon is also going to offer ad rates as high as $6 CPM for interstitial ads in the months of August and September.

Amazon’s Fire phone is likely to cater to existing Amazon customers, especially those who are Prime subscribers. The Firefly functionality makes it very easy for customers to be able to purchase products off Amazon in a jiffy, it also adds a visual search to the phone which is exciting in so many ways.

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How Facebook’s Social Experiment Manipulated Online User Behavior


A new study conducted by Facebook is throwing all sorts of mixed reactions at the world’s largest social media company. A majority of those are, however, on the negative side. Apparently, Facebook decided to manipulate the emotions of its own users for a research.

Without gaining any sort of consent from its users, Facebook decided to play around with their emotions for a little experiment. The experiment lasted for around a week back in 2012 when the company analyzed over 700,000 users’ moods. The experiment concluded that most people are likely to post positive or negative content based on what they read on their newsfeed.

Facebook may not be the only company trying to play with users’ moods. A lot of advertisement companies try to compel their audience in similar ways. But the sheer size of Facebook’s so called social “experiment” has people on the internet going angry over how the company managed to manipulate their behavior.

According to a report filed by the company’s researchers after the study was conducted, “Emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience same emotions without their awareness. Emotional contagion is well established in laboratory experiments, with people transferring positive and negative emotions to others.”

If done the wrong way, the research’s findings could find a lot of bad use cases amongst advertising agencies or governments across the world to manipulate online user behavior in a huge way. Considering the number of people Facebook currently houses in its virtual farms, it could breed a whole new generation of people easily manipulated by the content on their news feeds.

If you’re an enterprise, and you had a bunch of grumpy employees for one peculiar week in 2012, now you know the reason why. Or in case you had an unexpectedly amazing week of sales during that particular week, you can thank Facebook for it. It would probably work the same way for general consumers.


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Microsoft To Acquire SyntaxTree To Strengthen Visual Studio For Developers


Microsoft is acquiring SyntaxTree, a popular Visual Studio plug-in that is used to debug games running on the Unity game engine. The move is largely expected to please more game developers. The acquisition will ensure that the plugin, UnityVS, will become an integral part of Microsoft Visual Studio.

The company’s corporate vice president of developer division, S. Somasegar, said, “UnityVS enables Unity developers to take advantage of the productivity of Visual Studio to author, browse, and debug the code for their Unity application.”

He further added, “Already today, dozens of the biggest names in game development rely on Visual Studio and the UnityVS plugin.” Microsoft announced its plans to acquire the company on a blog post, while SyntaxTree confirmed it on their website. Neither of the companies have currently shared the financials related to the deal.

SyntaxTree said on its website, confirming the deal, “We cannot express strongly enough our appreciation of the support and encouragement we’ve received from the Unity gam e development community in the years leading to this milestone for our company. Thank you very, very much for your involvement.”

Currently, Unity is a highly popular cross-platform game engine capable of rendering 2D and 3D environments on the screen, apart from offering workflow management capabilities when it comes to complex game development. The plugin from SyntaxTree will offer the ability to debut Unity code right inside Visual Studio.

According to Microsoft, as of now there are around 2 million developers who are using Unity. Developers also use Unity to create three-dimensional walkthroughs apart from complex games. Unity also lets developers port their games to existing Microsoft platforms on the desktop and smartphones.

SyntaxTree claims it will get in touch with existing users in helping them with the transition, and more details on what the deal means for the plugin. Integration is likely to get a whole lot better for obvious reasons. Plenty of reasons for game developers to rejoice.


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E-Mail Platform Inbox Launches, Looks To Create New E-mail Standard


A group of ex-Dropbox and MIT alums have launched Inbox, titled the next-generation e-mail platform. The startup has been in stealth mode for quite a while now. Inbox will empower e-mail app developers with a new set of APIs that will help them build better e-mail apps with access to users’ inboxes.

Google had earlier introduced Gmail API at its annual developer conference Google I/O last month. Unlike Google which can only support Gmail, Inbox will support Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft Exchange, while promising support for several others in the coming few months.

The website which further explains Inbox claims that the company is not built around advertising like in the case of Google. The product for Inbox is “e-mail” itself, and the company is an e-mail company. It claims that they will not discontinue their product, much like Google does with most of its beta products.

The Gmail API was introduced to enable developers to build e-mail applications. The API will allow access to messages, labels, threats, and other significant parts of Gmail functionality without actually needing any complete user inbox access. Inbox has set out to do something similar, but in its own way, and with support for more e-mail accounts.

However both the companies may be solving the same problem — putting older protocols like the IMAP at bay from developers. The older formats and protocols weren’t designed with the idea of being implemented on a mobile interface or functionality. Therefore modern app developers need more than just the basic set of services.

Inbox is looking to create a new richer e-mail standard instead. The company plans to offer its infrastructure as an open source package. The Inbox sync engine is available on GitHub for free. The open source sync engine is currently working with Gmail and Yahoo mail but support is likely expected sooner for other e-mail services. Even enterprise users can use Inbox as it supports ActiveSync.


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Analytics Startup DataHero Chooses To Go With The Freemium Model


Analytics company DataHero’s business has picked up in the recent past. The company is now looking at opening up its cloud based services to build a business intelligence layer over SaaS. The company is now looking to adopt a freemium model.

DataHero launched in 2012 with a vision of enabling business users to access, and make the most of visual data. The company’s new freemium based pricing strategy is based on the fact that it has been experiencing a much higher growth in terms of paying customers, so much that it can now entice prospective customers by offering a free tier.

The startup had started rolling out its combined datasets functionality, which received a great response. It now supports sources such as Stripe, Google Drive, Salesforce, MailChimp, while the company is looking to add support for even more data sources like Zendesk, Pardot, Keen IO, and a few others.

In the free tier, users can combine data from two separate sources into one single view, right into a single file and analyze files. The upper limit for the combined files is 2MB, after which users can pay $49 per month to analyze files up to 10MB in size, and from unlimited number of sources.

DataHero offers a way to make it simpler, and much more efficient for users to convert their regular spreadsheet data into charts. The tool is mostly for users who want to use multiple sources to create rich snippets of data. It’s flexible, and more capable than most of the solutions out there.

It’ll be interesting to see how these moves play out for DataHero. The company is betting big on its BI layer over SaaS services, to counter inefficient interfaces over its own set of services. There are several business-focussed analytics tools that will still try to cash in on the buzz.

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The Creator Of Siri Now Makes A Virtual Assistant For The Enterprise Sector


SRI International, the creators of virtual assistant Siri, have launched a new virtual assistant for businesses. Titled, Kasisto, the enterprise virtual assistant will bring a more customized solution to business users. The company is looking to improve the consumer experience even further using intelligent conversations.

The company had earlier introduced Siri, which Apple now uses on its mobile platform iOS. SRI International said in an official statement, “Kasisto takes mobile conversation to the next level, enabling consumers to perform complex tasks, which often require domain knowledge and human interaction, on a mobile device.”

Kasisto will be powered by a conversation based artificial intelligence platform that will empower enterprises to quickly integrate branded conversations in a cost-effective manner. The vice president of SRI Ventures said in an official statement, “Virtual personal assistant technology has revolutionized consumer interaction with mobile devices. Now consumers can expect a more human-like experience when interacting online. Kasisto represents a new user experience—one that is context aware, personalized, and more effective.”

The company has also found customers in the financial industry. Kasisto is a result of decades of research and development, collaboration with BBVA, a global financial services group. BBVA is a strategic partner on Kasisto, with SRI International. It will help bring deeper knowledge of the banking industry into the product.

The enterprise virtual assistant will be revealed today at the FinTech Innovation Lab Demo Day in New York city. The even is an annual affair where six early and growth-stage companies that are developing technology based products for the financial services industry will show off their work.

Kasisto will allow enterprises to add intelligent virtual assistant capabilities to their mobile apps much quickly as compared to any other decent alternatives. It’ll be interesting to see how Kasisto gets absorbed in the enterprise sector. Moreover if any of the major mobile platforms is serious about enterprise, they might be interested in picking it up for their own enterprise programs.


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Samsung Pay Will Have A Slight Advantage Over Apple Pay Initially

Samsung Pay Will Have A Slight Advantage Over Apple Pay Initially

Samsung today finally revealed its upcoming payments app, along with its new flagship devices Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. As we reported earlier, Samsung’s payments app — Samsung Pay — will mirror Apple Pay in terms of functionality and user experience. While both Apple and Google have had contactless payment systems in the market already, Samsung wants to bridge the gap in the existing market with its new app.

The company’s payment solution will be compatible with both near-field communications (NFC) and magnetic secure transmission (MST). The latter is a part of the technology Samsung acquired from LoopPay. This will translate into Samsung Pay being able to process both contactless as well as swipe purchases from older terminals in the market.

The Galaxy S6 and the S6 Edge both contain a new and improved fingerprint sensor that will help accelerate the mobile payment experience. The new sensors will be able to work just like the way Apple Pay works by pressing a finger rather than swiping it across the reader.

To start with, Samsung Pay has partnered with MasterCard and Visa for credit card processing along with four major, and the largest card issuers — JP Morgan Chase, Citi, Bank of America, US Bank. The company has promised more partners will be on board very soon. For any payment app to succeed, these partnerships are as crucial as the overall user experience.

Samsung will have an edge with its payments app initially. There are more payment terminals in the US that do not support Apple Pay or NFC contactless payments right now, and Samsung Pay will work on all of those. Major US banks will also shift to newer EMV cards this year which use a chip present on the card, along with a PIN to authenticate the payment.

In short, Samsung Pay will be able to process both smart and dumb payment terminals. It’s the biggest advantage the Korean giant is going to have over Apple Pay. But with Apple increasingly looking to grow its partnership, and replace older terminals with newer ones at most major retail chains, Samsung will have to do a lot more than just offer legacy support.

Source: webcast

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Microsoft’s Virtual Assistant Cortana Shakes Hands With The Academic World


Microsoft is all set to pair up its personal assistant Cortana with the academic world. The company today announced that it will convert its existing Academic Search tool to a new service that will empower academic researchers determine what data goes through Bring and Cortana.

In a blog post by Microsoft Research’s managing editor Rob Knies, wrote, “The addition of the academic data to Bing will make that service even more robust — and will help make Cortana the best personal assistant for researchers.”

The move is likely to make things a lot more beneficial to academicians as far as taking help of technology in the field of research is concerned. It will also help Microsoft powered Cortana running in specific areas where researchers are in large numbers, especially China and the US.

Apple started with mobile virtual assistants with Siri on the iPhone 4S. Google came up with its own version of a virtual assistant in the form of Google Now. Microsoft’s answer to these two is Cortana. While Apple and Google continue to push updates to their virtual assistant services, Microsoft is looking to exploring other key areas where it can bring in the out of the box factor to its virtual assistant.

Making its virtual assistant smarter is certainly the way to go for the software giant. Consumers tend to compare key features on a smartphone platform, and virtual assistants are going to be a major deciding factor going forward.

Microsoft’s Athima Chansanchai writes on the Microsoft blog, “This fall, Cortana, the personal assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, will be smarter than ever with academic data powered by Bing. This addition to Bing will make that service even more robust — and will help make Cortana the best personal assistant for researchers.”

The new functionality is huge step forward for Microsoft Academic Search. The project has been an area where the company has invested a lot of resources for research ideas in the fields of data mining and visualization. Making such information a part of its Bing search results is a major step forward towards making search, and connected services a lot smarter in the near future.


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