Today Mobile World Congress officially got started in Barcelona, Spain. Despite the name, and the expectation for handset announcements, Microsoft had a bit more in store when it took the stage. Joe Belfiore talked a lot about Windows Phone, as should be expected, but that wasn't all he had up his sleeve.
Windows 8.1 Update 1 isn't exactly unheard of -- it's been leaking all over the place the past few weeks. But official word from Microsoft has not been put forth until now. The company has a major perception problem with its latest operating system, and this was rumored to be a big step towards fixing that.
Bing continues to expand its search options, as Microsoft takes on Google. It's an uphill battle, but not one that is completely out of the question. The search engine has many features to earn it recommendations, including a clean interface and easy access to locations and simple glance for local events.
Now the company is rolling out timelines, a way to get more information on your people searches. "We now show you important events in the timeline of influential or famous people’s lives. In the case of Henry Ford, we highlight several events of Henry’s life including his marriage and early career of farming and running a saw-mill in 1888, incorporating the Ford Motor Company in 1903, and his retirement from the company in 1918", Bing's Richard Qian states.
Windows XP launched in October of 2001, and so has passed its 12th birthday. Customers using an operating system this old should understand the risks associated with it. Yes, Microsoft is still updating it, and will do so up to April 7th of this year, but that is small compensation for the lack of modern features included in this decade old system.
The company has been through three iterations of Windows since the aging OS hit the market. XP has had a great run, but all things must come to an end. My colleague Brian Fagioli suggested users move to Linux, which I have nothing against, but calling it an alternative to the changes in Windows 8.x is ridiculous -- it’s still a completely foreign operating system with a stiff learning curve.
Google has been busy with its Maps service the past couple of days, including a new desktop version, announced yesterday, that will be rolling out soon. But the company has not been too busy for a little vacation, this time traveling to India.
The country is known for many sights, though the most prominent is likely the Taj Mahal, a white marble building that has become a top tourist destination. That wasn't the only place that Google visited, though. 29 more monuments were also included in the new Street View of the country.
I haven't witnessed the devastation of the Amazon, but I've been fortunate, or unfortunate, enough to travel through the American Northwest, a place where "clear-cutting" ran rampant in the 80's. Today's laws have somewhat subsided that practice, but the Oregon and Washington areas are a small sample size on a vast, global scale.
Now Google Maps takes on the issue that faces everyone today -- we need the space, though less-so the paper, and certainly need the oxygen produced. The search giant has put together a new mapping program that is tracking the forests around the world -- or the dwindling numbers of them.
Xbox One touts its voice control, but some customers feel that isn't quite enough, and using a game controller is not much easier. Harmony supports the console, but not everyone wishes to pay for the high-end universal remote.
Now Microsoft is unveiling a new Media Remote for the gaming system. This isn't entirely unexpected. After all, last week Amazon Canada accidentally reveled the little remote control on its retail website.
Google continues to enhance its Maps offering, combining it with Street View to bring comprehensive coverage of every possible area -- even trails in national parks. Now the search giant is announcing more improvements will be arriving on customers' desktops very soon.
"It’s now even easier to plan your next trip, check live traffic conditions, discover what’s happening around town, and learn about a new area -- with Pegman’s help if needed", states Brian McClendon, vice president of Google Maps.
You can't throw a rock without hitting someone who's fed up with their ISP. Services like Comcast are becoming an increasingly worrisome problem in today's world. Google provides its own ISP, but it is sadly only available in rather limited markets. And by limited, we are not kidding, there only three -- Kansas City, Provo and Austin.
However, those cities won't be able to feel special for much longer, because the search giant is considering more locales for its high-end ISP service. "We want to help build more ultra-fast networks. So we’ve invited cities in nine metro areas around the US -- 34 cities altogether -- to work with us to explore what it would take to bring them Google Fiber", states Google's Milo Medin.
Amazon Coins have mostly flown beneath the radar -- you don't really hear much about them, but you probably know of their existence. That's because, in the past, they were available only for Kindle Fire tablets. Despite the popularity of those devices, the Coins haven't made big news.
Now Amazon is expanding the service out to encompass all Android devices, no matter what brand of phone or tablet you happen to be using. This does come with a requirement -- you'll need to be running the Amazon Store on your slate or handset, and it needs to be the latest version as well.
Roku has been continuously adding content, or what it terms channels. This refers to, in some cases, actual channels, while in others it is a service, like YouTube and more. Now the little set-top box company has partnered up with one more network to deliver content to its customers.
Showtime Anytime is the new addition, as reported by Roku's Ed Lee. "Users can now watch current and past seasons of award-winning Showtime original series including Homeland, Ray Donovan, Masters of Sex, House of Lies, Dexter, Nurse Jackie and more on available on all current-generation Roku devices in the US".
Smart TVs have become all the rage, bringing the world of apps into the living room. But other devices, like Blu-ray players and set-top boxes, can do the same thing. Now TiVo, a pioneer in the DVR field, is partnering with Opera to bring its app store to customers.
This isn’t for all TiVo users, only for those on US cable service RCN. Opera, largely known as a Norwegian browser maker, is one of the biggest forces in the smart TV business, maintaining an app store it licenses to device makers.
The battle of the streaming video services continues, which is good news for cord-cutters, and those who are potentially considering taking that route. Amazon today scores a new deal with a content provider, allowing for additional material to become available to all subscribers.
The online retailer has teamed with MGM in a deal that will bring viewers such movies as The Terminator, Silence of the Lambs, Raging Bull, and Thelma and Louise. In addition, TV shows like MTV's Teen Wolf are arriving on Prime.
The Seattle Seahawks overwhelming victory in this year's Super Bowl may now be a memory, but the ads certainly live on. Those that debuted during the big game continue to run during our daily TV shows, and Google's video service has been polling viewers to get a feel for what really came out on top that Sunday.
While everyone likely had a personal favorite, there was a consensus amongst the masses, and the company has unveiled its top five from the NFL championship.
Since the death of Google Reader last year, it seems RSS has been steadily heading towards becoming a paid service. Many of the front-runners in the field, while still offering a free plan, are pushing "premium" access.
Now The Old Reader joins Feedly, InoReader and others in entering this field. The company is promising a number of perks for those who pony up the $3 per month, or $30 per year. Features will include full-text search, faster feed refresh times, six months of post storage and more.
Plex, if you aren't familiar with it, comes in two parts. There's a server that you install on a, preferably, always-on computer. Then there are the end-user apps, which are available for multiple mobile devices and set-top boxes. The server is free, but the apps will set you back $5 (OK, $4.99 if you want to be technical).
However, now through tomorrow, Valentine's Day, the service is offering a discount to its potential customers. "Until Valentine’s Day, we’re offering all our mobile apps for 50% off: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. Not enough sale for you? We’re also offering 3 bonus months on a yearly Plex Pass bought with PayPal (that’s 15 months for the price of 12)", the company announces.