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Note to Microsoft Press and “Fans”: Stop The Whining

I have not written in a while, but thanks to IFTTT my Instagram photos have been keeping this site full of fun and exciting pictures.  Okay, maybe they are not fun or exciting!  Then I see something that makes me angry, so here I am.

This week Facebook is cutting off access to a very old version of their Graph API.  An API that has been updated over and over again.  At an event well over a year ago Facebook announced that they would be cutting off access to this old version, and that anyone who uses it should update their app or service to use the new version.  So this week Microsoft posts that because of this change many Microsoft services that were connected to Facebook using this ancient version of an API were no longer going to work.  Then comes the crazy and stupid headlines.  Some said that Facebook was f**king Microsoft, and many others made it sound like Facebook was going after Microsoft users specifically.  This was factually incorrect, but that does not matter.

This reminds me of the Google cutting off Exchange Active Sync story from a couple of years ago.  If you just listened to and read many that covered or followed Microsoft you would think that Google was targeting the twelve Windows Phone users (I was one of them at the time).  The truth is that this was a move by Google that impacted a lot more iPhone users who used EAS to connect their Gmail accounts.  Google was trying to force their free users to use the Gmail app in order to have push e-mail.  If you still wanted EAS access, they said pay up for a Google Apps account.  You can disagree with what Google did to their users, but this was not a shot at Microsoft or Windows users.  They were doing what every company is doing, trying to get their users to use the official app.

Then there was the YouTube app debacle.  Google once again did not make an app for Windows Phone users, so Microsoft at the time decides to build their own app.  There are ways to make a third party YouTube app that works, but that is not what Microsoft did.  They built an app that broke every rule Google had set for app developers in order to get the reaction they did from Google.  Microsoft even had an option to download videos in the app!  This was going on at the same time that Microsoft was running an online and TV ad campaign called “Scroogled”.  Somehow people wanted you to believe that Google was the one targeting Microsoft here.  The truth is that Microsoft was poking Google over and over again trying to get Google to react so Microsoft can spin it and use public pressure to get an official app.  Well that did not work.

The good news is that the new regime at Microsoft stopped the “Scroogled” campaign, and seems to have moved pass this mentality.  Microsoft is going back to what they do best, making software.  This software is now running well on every platform their customers run.  From iOS to Android to Windows, you can use Microsoft’s software and services and Microsoft says thank you.  It is time for Microsoft users and the press that covers them to realize the reality they now live in.  Facebook and Google are not going out their way to target Windows Phone users.  Apple and Google are in the middle of  a holy war over privacy, but Google is still creating new apps for iOS.  They are doing what they need to do to run their own business.  The same way Microsoft is now doing what they have to do.

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Metro Design Lives On…

So it looks like the Metro design language Microsoft used starting with Windows Phone 7 continues on, just not on Windows Phone anymore.  Google is updating their YouTube app on Android, and it looks oddly familiar.
Screenshot 2015-03-15 11.57.47

New YouTube Interface Rolling Out To Some Users Ditches The Hamburger Menu

Many Windows Phone users and developers were not happy with Microsoft’s changes, and this will only add fuel to the fire.  As Microsoft plays catch up by adding in the Hamburger menu, it appears others are already moving away from a menu system that many find less productive.

Peter Bright of Ars Technica sums up my feeling about the whole thing three tweets.

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A Way To Get Around Slim Margins for PC and Phone OEMs?

After Lenovo’s week from hell, I have been thinking on ways for Microsoft to get their partners to make computers without the cruft that makes these machines unusable and unsafe.  How about Microsoft shares store revenue with manufacturers that install a clean version of Windows for their users?  If you can tell Lenovo and HP that they can make money on their machines even after they are bought, that has to have some pull.  So if you user X buys $50 worth of apps from the Windows Store… $35 would go to developers, $10 would go to Microsoft, and $5 would go back to the OEM.  They can’t be making much on what they pre-install now, can they?

I think this approach would also have some Android OEMs take a look at Windows Phone if you promised them some post sale revenue.  The mobile app store has become a place people expect to spend money, so if you tell Samsung or HTC they will get a few bucks a year from each user….

Just trying to think outside the box!

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Two Images That Show Off the New Microsoft

Frank Shaw, head of communications at Microsoft, tweeted this:
 

 

I do see that the individual Office apps are running on an Android phone.  This would be an update to the current Office Mobile, and would be the same as iOS and Windows Phone 10 (at launch).

 

…and then when you open the Sunrise app on Android you are greeted with this image:

2015-02-12 05.18.46

 

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All the Windows

So today Microsoft is revealing more about Windows 10.  A few months ago they released the first preview that was geared toward enterprise, but today we are supposed to hear more about their consumer offerings including mobile.

It is pretty evident where Microsoft is going on the PC.  My interest is to see what they say on mobile.  There are a number of features I am interested in, but I am going to judge this on something else.  They need to sell me and a lot of other people that they are all in on their own mobile operating system.  I know they are all in on mobile because a nice modern touch version of Office runs well on my iPad and Nexus 7, but it is time to hear what they are doing on the Windows side.

What do you want to hear from Windows team in Redmond?

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Twitter: What I Use

I get this question a lot.  What Twitter client do you use on X platform?  So now I can just send them here.  First let’s get this out of the way.  I don’t use the actual first party Twitter client on anything.

Android

 

Fenix – I have been using Fenix for a few months, and am thrilled with how it works.  It is used daily on my Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nexus 7.  The black theme and easy navigation have made this my go to.  Other good options are Talon and Falcon which just came out with a new version today.

Download Fenix from Google Play

Windows & Windows Phone

 

Tweetium – The future of Windows is universal apps, and Tweetium is living in the future now.  This app works on Windows Phone 8.1 and your PC running Windows 8.1 or higher. I use it on a Lumia 1520 and Surface.  This is the type of app Microsoft had in mind when they designed the new modern interface.  If there were more apps like this the story in Windows Phone land could be a lot different.  For those users looking for a Windows desktop app, launch Tweetdeck in your browser.  The only app I liked is gone! R.I.P. MetroTwit.

Download Tweetium for Windows 8

Download Tweetium for Windows Phone

Mac OS X and iOS

 

Tweetbot – I have not been in the world of OS X for a while, but have heard a lot of the chatter about Tweetbot.  I used it on an iPhone and was super pleased, and now that I have a Retina MacBook Pro I see why users love this app.  From design to ease of use this app gets it all right.  Just beware many users complain about the lack of updates to the iPad version of the app.  If you have an iPhone or a Mac, get this app now.

Download Tweetbot for iOS 

Download Tweetbot for Mac OS X


 

I will keep this post updated as I change the apps I use which seems to happen quite often.  What are you using to connect to Twitter on your device?

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Google Now Should Be Renamed GMAIL Now

I just responded to an e-mail the same way I have responded to e-mails asking the same question for months now.  The question of course is, “Why does my Galaxy not track my flight info?”.   The answer of course is that the Google Now feature of Android phones is only useful if you use Gmail.  We see advertisements and news articles all the time telling us how Google Now will automatically track your flight, your package, and as of yesterday your bus trip.  These all sound great.  Just one little issue.  This only works if you use Gmail for everything.

Many people travel for work, and it would make sense that their flight confirmations are sent to a work e-mail account.  The same can go for packages of course, and other things you want tracked.  Google is sad to tell you that you are out of luck.  Wait, what happens if you use Google Apps? Well this can work, right?  Yes you can use Google Now with a Google Apps account, but then it won’t use your personal e-mail account.  You must pick one!  So if you have a family vacation coming up, that trip will be missed.  Why can’t Google scan the e-mails you put on your phone and get the relevant information for you?  Is it that they want to force all of your e-mails onto their servers? 

The scariest thing I am starting to see are people forwarding their work e-mail to their Gmail accounts just to get this service to be useful.  So IT and legal teams across the world who craft policies and retention rules for their company are being circumvented.  I am sure we have all gotten those e-mails that state a message from Gmail is being sent on behalf of someone. 

Samsung has been working hard trying to prove that their devices are enterprise ready.  They are even sharing some of their Knox technology with Google to include in the next version of Android.  Microsoft has solved this issue by allowing it’s own version of Google Now to go through e-mails on a device, no matter where the e-mail is hosted.  I hope Google does something similar with their service or else many more enterprise customers are going to block Android devices, many have already.

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Updated: 5/1: I Love Windows Phone 8.1, but I Can’t Use It

A few weeks ago I did a quick review of my first two weeks with the Lumia 1520.   In the weeks since a lot has happened with Windows Phone including the release of Windows Phone 8.1 to developers.  So what has changed? How does Windows 8.1 change Windows Phone? The big new features that came with Windows Phone 8.1 are the Action Center, which is Microsoft’s answer to Android and iOS’s notification center, and the voice assistant named Cortana.  Both new features are really well done.  Action Center gives you that central place for all of your notifications, and at the same time gives you quick access to certain settings.   Cortana has taken parts of both Siri and Google Now, and has created a really nice voice assistant.  At this point I would say it is the best iteration of this feature that we have seen from any company.  It allows you as the user to setup the information you want Cortana to follow, whether a certain news topic or your favorite sports team.  Like Google Now, Cortana will use places like your home and work to let you know when to leave for events and how far you are from those places.  It also makes tasks like setting your alarm just a quick sentence away.

For in depth reviews of what is new with Windows Phone 8.1, go over to Paul Thurrott’s Supersite For Windows at www.winsupersite.com where he is going over each feature .

Overall I am really impressed with what Microsoft has done with Windows Phone.  They have created a top class mobile operating system that is ready for the big time, but now more than ever they need the help of apps and app developers which brings me to my next point.  As much as I love my Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8.1, I can’t carry it with me as my main device. I went all in with the 1520, I was going to make this relationship work.  In the end I just found myself missing out on many things that I needed on a daily basis.  I will start just on the productivity front.  There are certain apps and services I need.  Many of them are not available on Windows Phone, and even those that do exist are in a half baked manner.  I will use Box for example.  There is an app for Box, but it is missing many of the core features.  Document collaboration is one of the major features of the service, and it does not exist.   Then there are the social apps we all use on a daily basis.  There are apps for Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc on the platform.  However, in each and every case the Windows Phone version is light years behind their counterparts on Android and iOS.  I am even using the Twitter Beta that was built specifically for 8.1, and I feel like I am using a Twitter app from 2009.  Entertainment and sports apps? One of the apps I use most is Watch ESPN which is not available, and again even when an app is available like the NBC Live Extra app it does not work.  Last night while recording the latest edition of the “Surface Geeks” Podcast I wanted to have the NHL playoffs on my phone.  I took  out the 1520, and all I got were errors and crashes.  So I turned on the Moto X, and within seconds my Live Extra app had the game streaming without any issues.   That is why when I leave the house the only phone I take with me is Moto X running Android.  I can find ways to deal with the less than par social apps and entertainment apps, however the productivity apps I can’t do that with.  This is the real reason I carry my phone at all times, and not something most people are willing to give up. We always hear about the “app gap” and Microsoft truthfully tells us that the gap has closed.  However, the quality of apps being put on the platform are just not good enough.  I am not a developer so I don’t know if the issue is the apps themselves, or something in the OS that it makes it hard to develop for.  Either way, as an end-user this needs to change.  At this point I am very happy that Microsoft is making their services available everywhere.  I will continue to enjoy all of them on other devices. I look forward to revisiting this again in a few months to see what has changed.

Updated: May 1, 2014

Thank you for the comments below, and I love the passion so many have for Windows Phone and technology as a whole.  That said, there are common themes throughout the comments that I just can’t agree with.  That theme is to only use and support apps that support Windows Phone, that I should only use Microsoft services so my Windows Phone works better for me, and there are third party apps for many things.

Let me start with the first two since they are very similar.  I tell clients, friends, and even myself to use the best service or software for a given task.  I am not about to switch services that work for me in order to carry a phone.  While I enjoy the UI of Windows Phone, and many things it offers the main goal of my phone is as a tool to get work done.  I am not about to start telling those I work with that they need to drop their Box service or Dropbox so I can keep carrying a phone.  I really like keeping my world in many different platforms.  At this point Windows Phone is the worst for that scenario.  Both iOS and Android have apps from all the major vendors, including Microsoft.  I have a full section of Microsoft Apps on my MotoX, and they all work flawlessly.  On that same phone I can use all the functionality of Box while enjoying the Asana service.

On the last comment I saw that I can use third party apps.  For some fun stuff like Four Square and Instagram, i don’t mind using a third party app.  That said, there is no way I am going to use a third party Dropbox app that has access to my data or client data.  Whatever you think about online services, Dropbox and others have very clear terms of service you can read on their websites.  Who is making third party apps, and what happens to that data is never as clear.  While I am sure things would be fine most of the time, that is a risk I am not willing to take.

Again, I reiterate my love for the Lumia 1520 hardware and the 8.1 upgrade.  That said, the problems I lay out here is the reason Windows Phone is struggling.  Whatever momentum they did have late last year seems has stagnated according to the latest usage reports.

Tech

Microsoft Surface, What’s In A Name?


Microsoft’s new tablet, called “Surface”, went on sale a few weeks ago with some fanfare.  The reviews around the tech world were mixed at best.  Reading these reviews was making me angry.  No journalist owed Microsoft a positive review, but the reviewers totally missed the boat on what the Surface is.  Every review compared it to the iPad.  I am not going to do a review of the Surface, as I will let others make their own opinions.  However, I ask that you look at it in this light.  The iPad is a device made for media consumption, social, gaming, and other personal activities that can be used if need be for some work product.  The Surface is a device that is made for work product that can be used for media consumption, social, gaming, and other personal activities.  The entire basis for each product is inverse to the other.  Therefore just doing a review where you compare the two products is intellectually dishonest.

Now Microsoft has to take some blame here as well.  They have done an awful job explaining the device, and have done an even worse job describing what will run on it.  Everyone by now has seen the new Windows 8 ads showing the next version of Windows.   I think it is safe to say that most people know what Windows is as this point.  However the Surface runs Windows RT.  What in the world is Windows RT? It really is a version of Windows that only runs apps designed for the platform.  However, a lot of people see the word Windows and assume that it will run all of their Windows apps.  This problem could have been solved very easily.  They should never have named the operating system Windows RT.  In fact they should not have put the name Windows in it at all.  They should have called it Surface OS.  Most people would understand that you can only run Surface OS apps on your Surface.  Unlike the iPad which only has Apple making them, Microsoft allows any hardware company to make a Windows RT device.  These devices should have been called “powered by Surface OS”.  This also allows Microsoft another marketing point.  They can advertise to their Windows 8 buyers that their machines run Windows and Surface applications.

At this point I would just tell you to go to your local Microsoft Store or Best Buy to check out these devices.  The Surface is only sold at Microsoft stores, however there are other RT devices being sold elsewhere.  Best Buy has an ACER tablet running Windows RT that is very nice.  The ease with which these devices connect to a keyboard is great, and they will run your native Office applications such as Word and PowerPoint.  Right now there is no Outlook for Windows RT, but you can setup your mail account to use the built in mail, address book, and calendar apps.  I am just happy there is a new player on the block that looks like it will have staying power.  I see Microsoft being able to position itself with its new phones and tablets as the new Blackberry.  Devices you can use for fun, but they are made for work.