Every Friday, my colleague Martin Brinkmann details the best Windows 8 apps that surface in Store during the week. I have closely followed the series mostly to check new arrivals (since I use Windows 8) but also to get a feel of the quality and value that developers bring to the new ecosystem.
As some of you have mentioned in the comments, the highlighted apps are not exactly up to par with offerings available on Apple App Store or Google Play. The most noteworthy ones are few and far between, something that is immediately noticeable after browsing through the available selection on Windows Store. The most resounding apps come, for instance, from Microsoft, Nokia, Shazam, Twitter and a couple other major players. There is more to it, of course, but the quality and value are still inadequate these days.
In an effort to boost the adoption and sales of its two Windows slates, on Monday, Microsoft introduced a new channel program (simply called Microsoft Devices Program), which allows authorized resellers to commercialize Surface Pro and RT devices.
"Today, we’re announcing the first phase of our expansion into the business channel that allows customers to purchase Surface and commercial services through authorized resellers", says Microsoft. "In addition to offering Microsoft's extended warranty and accidental damage, resellers bring a variety of additional value-added services to the Surface family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection".
Microsoft just released the second major iteration of its Blink Windows Phone 8 app which now introduces GIF (the pronunciation is still open for debate) support, new features and improved functionality.
The app, which is built by Microsoft Research (the software giant's research arm), allows users to take advantage of its burst shot feature to combine multiple pictures (the number is user-selectable) into a GIF image. The GIF can be viewed directly after creating it and can be shared via email and three social networks -- Facebook, Microsoft's Socl and Twitter. (It's time to test this with the help of your pet and post the results, for posterity's sake of course.)
Yesterday, despite "credible" rumors suggesting a full-on iOS approach, Microsoft released Office for iPhone but left iPad users stranded. The company also planted a little trojan horse -- the app is free but it is not free to use, requiring an Office 365 subscription, which runs for $99.99 per year, to take advantage of Excel, PowerPoint and Word.
But, based on my own experience with Office on Windows Phone, the suite is not really in its own element on a small display. iPhone users are most likely to run the app just to perform quick edits and (in the most-optimistic scenario) create very short and basic documents, presentations or spreadsheets. Office would really shine on bigger screens, however Microsoft doesn't want iPad users to actually use it. I've asked the software giant to explain the iPhone-only design and here is the company's response.
I can't remember the last time I printed a photo. Can you? The versatility of cloud services and the increasingly accommodating on-device storage changed the way folks enjoy and look at pictures, turning printing from a once-popular activity into a dying art. Today, more than ever, digital replaces physical.
But prints are not dead (yet), as cloud services like Kicksend look to modernize the way people get their memories onto paper. Kicksend, available first on iOS, Android and the web, just turned its eyes towards Windows 8 and Windows RT, also allowing users of the tiled operating system to share photos and order prints straight from its app.
It's not often that I wish to find out what "Qorwagh" or "ghaH*" mean, but when curiosity strikes I can always power up Bing Translator on my Windows Phone. Sadly, Microsoft does not provide a similar app on Windows 8, leaving folks to look up the meaning of those Klingon words using a web browser. Until today, that is.
On Thursday, the software giant released its excellent Bing Translator on Windows 8 and, yes, I can assure you that Klingon is among the supported languages. The app is similar to its Windows Phone 8 counterpart in terms of functionality and includes options like camera translation and more mundane ones like text-to-speech.
On Wednesday, Microsoft revealed that Outlook 2013 finally arrives on Windows RT later this year, alongside the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. The application, known for offering advanced contacts, calendar and email functionality, joins Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, part of Office Home and Student 2013, on the tablet operating system.
"Windows on ARM is a core part of our strategy today and moving forward, and the addition of Outlook further enriches this world of new on-the-go opportunities for partners and customers", says Microsoft's Tami Reller. According to the software giant, Outlook is one of the most sought-after applications on Windows RT, being a "popular request from consumers and businesses alike".
There is a lot of hype about Windows 8.1, but we haven’t heard all that much about Windows RT as of late. The operating system is derived from Windows 8 and designed for mobile devices that utilize the ARM architecture.
Today at Computex 2013, Qualcomm announces that its high end processor, the Snapdragon 800, will power at least some of the next generation of Windows RT 8.1 devices.
Desktop themes are so often catered for by third party tools that it’s easy to forget that Windows has built in support for theme packs. If you’re short of inspiration, don’t trust your own photography skill, or just can’t be bothered to browse Flickr for a new image, a new batch of themes direct from Microsoft could be what you need to breathe new life into your desktop.
There are five new themes in total, four of which have a travel connection. The Alaskan Landscape theme features photography from Kyle Waters -- a total of fifteen images. There is more of a seasonal feel to two New Zealand Landscapes themes.
Not content with free versions of its cut-down photo editing software for iOS and Android, Adobe has released Photoshop Express for Windows 8 and RT. As this is available free of charge, it should come as little surprise that the app does not afford users access to an unfettered range of professional level image editing tools, but for quick and dirty tweaks and fixes, there are plenty of options.
Taken a wonky photo? Getting things straightened up takes just a couple of taps and swipes. There are also tools for removing red eye, adjusting color levels and tweaking shadows and highlights. If you don’t feel like doing the hard work yourself, you can always turn to the auto-fix option to help take care of common issues in an instant.
This is how you sell a tablet. Tuesday evening of May 14, Microsoft debuted a new commercial for the Surface RT that finally explained the benefits of the tablet. No dancers. No super cool music. Just Microsoft talking about why the Surface RT is the next device you should own. The company emphasized the included USB port, kickstand, keyboard, and the single biggest sell of Surface RT, the included Office 2013 install. It sold the Surface as the power of a computer in the package of a tablet.
Is this not precisely what I called on Microsoft to do in my previous article about those odd (but awesome) Windows 8 ads? In that article I told the story about a guy who was working in a coffee shop on his Surface when someone walked up to him and said, “Is that the tablet that clicks?” He recognized the product from the commercials, but seemed to be unaware of anything other than its clicking. I wrote,
Microsoft is working on an update to Windows 8 and RT and will be releasing a preview version of it in June (in time for the Build developer conference), with the full release expected before the year’s end. The software giant has confirmed three things for definite about the update: its name (Windows 8.1), its price (free), and where you’ll be able to get it from (the Windows Store).
But thanks to early build leaks and statements from Microsoft, we also know quite a bit about the many changes the new release will bring to the polarizing operating system. Here’s a rundown of what to expect.
We already knew that Surface Pro was coming to Europe, but what we didn't know was exactly when. The company today announces the dates for availability, and the rollout begins in France on May 17, continuing to the United Kingdom on May 23. It wraps up with a broad May 30 release in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, and one more big day in Germany on May 31.
There's more to come, but Brian Hall, General Manager of the Microsoft Surface team concedes that "some markets are still confirming timing so aren’t included here".
Yes, that's right, there is no typo. The Dell XPS 10, which runs Windows RT and came to market sporting a $499 price-tag, is now available for purchase at a very affordable $299.99. Clearly, the US computer manufacturer no longer has its eyes set on Apple's fourth-generation iPad, one of the most popular fondleslabs available today.
So what do you get for $299.99? For the money, the XPS 10 packs a 10.1-inch multitouch display with a resolution of 1366 by 768, a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and 32 GB of internal storage. And, for just $50 more you can up the internal storage capacity to 64 GB.
If you live in the UK and are thinking of purchasing Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, now is the time. Pick up one through the Microsoft Store or a participating retailer (which in terms of brick and mortar sellers means John Lewis) and you’ll get a Touch or Type Cover thrown in for free.
It’s a very good deal, as you’d be looking to pay around £100 if you were to buy a cover separately. You can pick up the 32GB tablet-only version of Surface for £399 at the moment.