Microsoft Corp is will remove obstacles for apps written for rival Google Inc’s Android and Apple Inc’s iOS systems to work on Windows phones, in a bid to attract users to its unpopular mobile devices, the company’s operating systems chief said.
The move marks a radical shift in strategy for the world’s biggest software company, which still dominates the personal computer market but has failed to get any real traction on tablets and phones, partly because of a lack of apps.
Microsoft has found itself in a circular trap, as many developers will not build apps for Windows phones which have few users, and few people want the phones which have fewer apps than Android or Apple phones.
Getting apps built for Android and iOS onto its phones and tablets could be a shortcut to breaking out of that trap.
“Microsoft is making a major play to win back developers,” said Forrester analyst Michael Facemire. “They’ve opened up the once-impenetrable castle walls.”
Speaking at Microsoft’s developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Executive Vice President Terry Myerson said developers will be able to use the vast majority of their Android code to turn their apps into Windows-compatible versions, which will work on Windows phones running a special subsystem.
The apps will technically be Windows apps and available only through Microsoft’s online app store. The apps would automatically use Microsoft’s services such as Bing maps, rather than Google’s services, as an app would on an Android phone. That is a crucial distinction because Google gets revenue from ads on services rather than from the Android system itself.
Myerson also announced a surprise move to make it easier for iOS developers to make Windows apps, saying that Microsoft’s developer software will be compatible with Objective C, the main programming language used by Apple.
Microsoft, which bought Nokia’s handset business last year, has only 3 percent of the global smartphone market. By contrast, Android phones, led by Samsung, control 81 percent of the market and Apple 15 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.
While everyone is rushing to 10nm process technology for smartphones, fabless chipmaker MediaTek is about to create a 10 core SoC using TSMC’s 20nm process tech.
According to Digitimes the outfit is about to enter volume production of its 10-core SoC series for smartphones in the third quarter of 2015.
Dubbed Helios X20, the SoC will be targeted at Chinese based smartphone makers who want to upgrade their flagship devices.
Marketing will begin in the middle of the second quarter. When it gets into the shops it will be the world’s first 10-core chip.
The Helios X20 uses a 2+4+4 design, delivering 40 per cent more performance than eight-core chips. While this will give a lot of power to a smartphone, it is not clear what it will do for battery life or the size of the beast.
Still it is nice to see that someone has found a new way of getting more life out of the 20 nm process and do something good with it.
Microsoft Corp lost a round in a potentially expensive patent fight when a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled that the software giant used InterDigital Inc’s technology in its mobile phones without permission.
The judge, Theodore Essex, said that Microsoft infringed two wireless cellular patents owned by InterDigital , a patent licensor, and said it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft devices from being imported into the United States.
The judge’s decision must be reviewed by the full commission before any import ban is enacted.
The ITC has the authority to stop the import of products that it determines infringe a U.S. patent. Companies frequently sue at the ITC to win an import ban and in district court to win damages.
Wilmington, Delaware-based InterDigital first accused Nokia Corp of infringing its patents in 2007. Microsoft acquired Nokia’s handset division last year. The InterDigital patents relate to moderating a mobile phone’s power to reduce signal interference.
The ITC originally cleared Nokia of infringement, but in 2012 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, the nation’s top patent court, overturned that decision and sent it back to the ITC.
Microsoft called Monday’s decision one step in the process.
“We have a successful track record challenging patent assertion entities that misuse industry standards,” the company said in a statement.
InterDigital Executive Vice President Lawrence Shay said the company looks forward to “continued discussion” with Microsoft to license its patents.
With the feature, Facebook is also going aftert competing products like Apple’s FaceTime, Microsoft’s Skype and Google Hangouts. Facebookpreviously allowed video calling through its site on the desktop, but not within its Messenger app.
The video calling feature is available in the iOS and Android Messenger apps. iOS users will be able to video chat with Android users, and vice versa. It began rolling out Monday in the U.S. and more than a dozen other countries including Mexico, Nigeria and Uruguay, with availability in more regions slated for the coming months, Facebook said in a blog post.
The feature arrives as Facebook makes Messenger a platform for a variety of digital tasks. Other app developers can now integrate their software into Messenger, and users will soon be able to interact with businesses via the app to check the status of their orders. In March, Facebook began letting Messenger users send each other money through the app.
Messenger already handles more than 10 percent of all Internet-based voice calls, according to Facebook. The company sees video as an important extension of its functionality, especially when a voice call won’t do.
To start a video call, users tap the video camera icon in the upper right corner of the chat window.
With Messenger now available on the desktop, the feature could become a useful communications tool for businesses. It’s designed to work over Wi-Fi and LTE even when the signal strength is low.
With more than 600 million users who log in monthly, Messenger is one of Facebook’s most popular apps.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp, meanwhile, supports voice calling, but does not yet offer video calling.
In the 10-Q filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last week, Microsoft said that its Phone Hardware division, which is based largely on the Nokia assets acquired last year for approximately $7.9 billion, lost money in the March quarter.
With revenue at $1.4 billion for the period, Microsoft said, cost of revenue exceeded sales by $4 million, meaning the company lost about 12 cents — even before marketing, R&D and other expenses were factored in — on each phone sold.
More importantly, Microsoft also warned investors that it may need to write off some of the Nokia acquisition.
“Given its recent performance, the Phone Hardware reporting unit is at an elevated risk of impairment,” Microsoft said, using a term to describe the situation when the market value of a business is less than what’s carried on the books. In such scenarios, corporations are required to balance accounts by taking a charge against earnings to the tune of the difference.
“Declines in expected future cash flows, reduction in future unit volume growth rates, or an increase in the risk-adjusted discount rate used to estimate the fair value of the Phone Hardware reporting unit may result in a determination that an impairment adjustment is required, resulting in a potentially material charge to earnings [emphasis added],” the company continued.
Ben Thompson, an independent analyst who reported on Microsoft’s 10-K statement on Friday, translated the accounting-speak. “A very, very big write-off -— and associated quarterly loss -— is coming soon. What a disaster!” wrote Thompson on his Stratechery.com.
Microsoft currently carries $5.46 billion in “goodwill” from the Nokia acquisition on its books, as well as another $4.51 billion in intangible assets. The Redmond, Wash. company had attributed the Nokia goodwill to “increased synergies that are expected to be achieved from the integration of NDS [Nokia Corp.'s Devices and Services business].”
That value may now be greatly overstated, Microsoft acknowledged.
“Nokia notes recent news reports claiming the company communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of a R&D facility in China. These reports are false,”Nokia said in a statement posted on its website.
“Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets.”
However, Nokia has said it is looking into returning to the smartphones business by brand-licensing.
Nokia sold its phone business to Microsoft last year, but just months after that it launched a new brand-licensed tablet computer, produced under license by Taiwan’s Foxconn, with an intention to follow up with more devices.
Nokia has agreed with Microsoft that it will not enter the mobile phone business before 2016.
“It would be crazy not to look at that opportunity. Of course we will look at it,” Sebastian Nystrom, the head of products at Nokia’s Technologies unit, told Reuters in November.
Nokia this month announced a takeover of France’s Alcatel-Lucent, a bid to boost its mainstay network equipment business, and also said it could hive off its map business, which has reportedly drawn interest from carmakers as well as Facebook and online taxi service Uber.
It’s going to be another big year for games, as Newzoo is projecting that 2015 will see global gaming revenues jump 9.4 percent year-over-year to $91.5 billion. The future looks bright as well, with the research firm’s upcoming Global Games Market Report projecting worldwide revenues to reach $107 billion in 2017.
As the overall market grows, the distribution of where that money is coming from will also shift. Newzoo’s projections for this year have a surging Chinese market narrowly overtaking the US as the single biggest revenue contributor, bringing in $22.2 billion (up 23 percent) compared to the American market’s $22 billion (up 3 percent). As far as regions go, Asia-Pacific is far and away the largest source of gaming revenue, accounting for $43.1 billion (up 15 percent). Latin America is the smallest of the four major markets with just $4 billion in revenues, but it is also growing the quickest, up 18 percent year-over-year.
The platforms on which people spend money gaming are also in flux. Tablet revenues are expected to be up 27 percent year-over-year to $9.4 billion, with smartphone and watch revenues jumping 21 percent to $20.6 billion. However, PCs are the most popular platform for games, bringing in $27.1 billion (up 8 percent) from standard titles and MMOs, while casual webgames will draw an additional $6.6 billion (up 2 percent). Newzoo grouped TV, consoles, and VR devices into their own category, projecting them to bring in $25.1 billion (up 2 percent) in game revenues. The only market segment not seeing growth at the moment is the dedicated handheld, which Newzoo expects to bring in $2.7 billion in revenue this year (down 16 percent).
While the firm’s grouping of VR and smartwatch revenues in other categories may be unusual, it said both segments are too small to report for now.
“Short- to medium-term VR revenues will be limited and largely cannibalize on current console and PC game spending as a share of game enthusiasts invest in the latest technology and richest experience that VR offers,” Newzoo said. “Smartwatches will be a success but not add significant ‘new’ revenues to the $20.6 billion spent on smartphones this year.”
Internet of Things (IoT) will be the semiconductor industry’s next growth driver, according to TSMC president and co-CEO CC Wei.
Wei believes that the healthcare chip market will reach US$6.8 billion in production value in 2017, said Wei. Meanwhile a family home could feature more than 500 smart devices by 2020.
He said that mobile devices have already replaced PCs as the major growth driver of the semiconductor market and in 2014, about 1.88 billion mobile phones were shipped with 1.2 billion of them being smartphones.
Technology is also enabling devices to progress. Taking PC as an example, the penetration rate of the devices has been pushed up thanks to more advanced chip-making technologies, Wei said.
Worldwide semiconductor R&D expenditures were as high as US$56 billion in 2013, with the US semiconductor industry contributing the most at US$33 billion. Taiwan’s R&D expenditures for the year came to about an impressive US$5 billion, Wei noted.
Among the industry’s top-10 R&D spenders in 2014, two Taiwan-based companies were listed, Wei disclosed. TSMC’s R&D spending for the year came to US$1.87 billion allowing the company to climb to fifth place in the ranking, while MediaTek moved up to ninth with total R&D expenditures of US$1.43 billion.
Chip designer ARM reported a 36 per cent rise in first-quarter net profit amid strong demand for its technology.
The British company said that expects 2015 revenue to meet the expectations of the cocaine nose jobs of Wall Street.
ARM recorded net profit of $126.7 million for the three months to March 31 and revenue rose 22 percent.
Shares in ARM, which makes money by licensing its designs to chip makers, then collecting royalty revenue when the chips ship, were up by more than 5 per cent on the back of the news.
Processor-royalty revenue in dollar terms, a much-watched figure, rose 31 per cent on the year, the company said, adding that it has signed 30 processor licenses for a broad range of applications.
ARM CEO Simon Segars said: As the world becomes more digital and more connected, we continue to see an increase in the demand for ARM’s smart and energy-efficient technology, which is driving both our licensing and royalty revenues.@
Processor-licensing revenue was down 2 per cent in the quarter, which was in line with expectations following strong growth previously. Chief Financial Officer Tim Score told journalists he expects it to grow in future quarters.
Aside from smartphones and tablets, ARM said it is also seeing demand for its processors to be used for servers and networking and for the “Internet of Things”, a term used for the growing tendency for more items to be wirelessly connected.
ARM expects to benefit from the growth of the Internet of Things in areas such as health and in cars, Score said.
Nokia Technologies, which controls thousands of technology patents, plans to re-enter the mobile phone market in 2016, according to unnamed sources cited by Re/code.
Such plans would be ambitious, especially given the super-competitive global smartphone and feature phone market. It isn’t clear precisely what Nokia Technologies is up to, and at least two analysts are skeptical it will work.
“People loved Nokia [in previous years], but I am not sure consumers will think that this is the same Nokia,” said Carolina Milanesi, chief of research for Kantar WorldPanel ComTech via email. “From a business perspective, it will be hard to see how they can be competitive against white box players.”
It is also hard to see how devices will fit into Nokia’s overall business strategy, she said. Milanesi assumed the devices would be built on the Android platform, but that hasn’t been confirmed.
“The Nokia brand is a well-recognized brand, but I would think their re-entering the phone market is not going to happen,” added Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.
“They certainly will be fighting an uphill battle,” said Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC. “Nokia doesn’t have the brand catchet it once had and the phone market has gotten increasingly competitive as Chinese vendors like Xiaomi, Huawei, ZTE, etc., continue to gain share of wallet and mind, while driving down prices.”
Under terms of the $7 billion sale to Microsoft, Nokia can’t sell any phones under the Nokia brand through 2015 and can’t license the brand until the third quarter of 2016.
So far, it doesn’t appear that Nokia would manufacture any phones, but would instead design products and license those designs and the Nokia brand to other companies. The N1 Android tablet from Nokia Technologies was licensed to a Chinese manufacturer under that scheme.
Microsoft is going great guns in the server market having recently announced the Nano Server, a “minimal footprint” Windows Server, and Hyper-V containers, which provide virtual machine isolation capabilities to containers.
Nano Server is even more stripped-down than Windows Server Core with the GUI stack, 32 bit support (WOW64), MSI and a number of default Server Core components all being put in the dustbin.
You can’t do local logons, Remote Desktop and WMI and PowerShell are the only tools available to manage the creature.
Microsoft is also working on better remote tooling and is coming up with a set of management tools for the nano. It is planning work on PowerShell’s Desired State Configuration, file transfers and script authoring and debugging.
Cutting all this stuff out has made it more efficient, secure and availability. Redmond said that the Nano Server has 93 percent lower VHD (Virtual Hard Disk) size.
It also gets 92 percent fewer critical bulletins and requires 80 percent fewer reboots than a typical Windows Server. It is also a bit quicker to setup: from bare metal to running Nano Server takes 3 minutes.
Hyper-V containers also will offer the system a fair bit of isolation that was only available to “dedicated physical or virtual machines”.
EA is shuttering four high-profile free-to-play games, all of them allied to popular IP like Battlefield and FIFA.
Battlefield Heroes, Battlefield Play4Free, Need for Speed World and FIFA World will all continue for another 90 days, at which point they will be taken offline for good. Further development on the games has stopped already.
“In more than five years since most of these titles launched, how we play games has changed dramatically,” said Patrick Soderlund, EVP of EA Games, in a statement. “These were pioneering experiences, and we’re humbled that, over the years, so many of you joined us to enjoy the games and the community.”
In terms of EA’s growing interest in free-to-play models, the real pioneer among that group is Battlefield Heroes, which was pitched at “frustrated, restricted” gamers back in 2008. Need for Speed World and Battlefield Play4Free followed, launching over the second half of 2010.
By the start of 2012, EA was reporting a combined total of 25 million players across the six games in its “Play4Free” initiative, with Battlefield Heroes and Need for Speed World contributing 10 million players each.
However, FIFA World is by no means a forerunner. It only reaching open beta late in 2013, and so it is being shuttered after substantially less than two years of public availability. This wouldn’t imply a slow decline in interest, but a lack of interest in the first place.
That’s in stark contrast to FIFA Online, the free-to-play version of the game made specifically for markets in Asia. In 2012, EA’s Andrew Wilson claimed that FIFA Online was making $100 million a year in revenue. A year later, FIFA Online 3, the most recent iteration, was the leading online sports game in both traffic and revenue in Korea.
One thing is certain, take these four titles away from EA’s free-to-play games on Origin, and you’re left with only Command & Conquer: Tiberium Alliances and Star Wars: The Old Republic – in his statement, Soderlund stressed the latter’s “enthusiastic and growing” community, and reiterated EA’s commitment to providing new content.
The remainder of the company’s free-to-play catalog is composed of games like Outernauts, The Simpsons: Tapped Out and Bejeweled Blitz. Casual, social, call them what you will, but they are intended for a very different audience to Need for Speed World and Battlefield Play4Free, and that audience has just lost two-thirds of the games EA had made to satisfy its needs.
Microsoft Corp has finally rolled out a long-awaited suite of touch-friendly Office apps that allow Windows phone users to work on Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents on their phones with touch commands and to transfer them easily between devices.
Test versions of what Microsoft is calling its Office Universal apps are available to download immediately and full versions will be available by the end of the month, Microsoft said.
Many Office users have waited months for Microsoft to introduce the apps, which adapt their look and commands to the device being used, whether Windows Phone or tablet.
Microsoft, in a departure from tradition, has already released similar touch-friendly Office apps for Apple Inc’s iPad and iPhone, and for tablets running Google Inc’s Android.
The company’s reasoning was that those popular devices, which have dominated mobile computing, represented a bigger and more lucrative market for its Office products than its own Windows mobile devices.
Basic functions are free for everyone, but for advanced editing features, users must pay for a subscription to Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud-based version of Office.
Microsoft is set to release a new version of Office for desktop PCs, and a new version of Windows, later this year.
MediaTek is working on two new tablet SoCs and one of them is rumored to be a $5 design.
The MT8735 looks like a tablet version of Mediatek’s smartphone SoCs based on ARM’s Cortex-A53 core. The chip can also handle LTE (FDD and TDD), along with 3G and dual-band WiFi. This means it should end up in affordable data-enabled tablets. There’s no word on the clocks or GPU.
The MT8163 is supposed to be the company’s entry-level tablet part. Priced at around $5, the chip does not appear to feature a modem – it only has WiFi and Bluetooth on board. GPS is still there, but that’s about it.
Once again, details are sketchy so we don’t know much about performance. However, this is an entry-level part, so we don’t expect miracles. It will have to slug it out with Alwinner’s $5 tablet SoC, which was announced a couple of months ago
According to a slide published by Mobile Dad, the MT8753 will be available later this month, but we have no timeframe for the MT8163.
But there’s nothing to see here as far as Torvalds is concerned. It’s just another day in the office. And all this in “Back To The Future II” year, as well.
Meanwhile under the bonnet, the community are already slaving away on Linux 4.1 which is expected to be a far more extensive release, with 100 code changes already committed within hours of Torvalds announcement of 4.0.
But there is already some discord in the ranks, with concerns that some of the changes to 4.1 will be damaging to the x86 compatibility of the kernel. But let’s let them sort that out amongst themselves.
After all, an anti-troll dispute resolution code was recently added to the Linux kernel in an effort to stop some of the more outspoken trolling that takes place, not least from Torvalds himself, according to some members of the community.
Nokia is mulling over the idea of selling its maps business known as HERE, a source familiar with the matter said late last week, pushing up shares in the Finnish company as well as its network gear rival Alcatel-Lucent.
After the exit from handsets, analysts have seen little synergies between the map unit and Nokia’s mainstay network gear business. Nokia has hired a financial adviser to explore a sale of the unit, the source added.
Bloomberg first reported news of the sale on Friday.
A Nokia spokeswoman declined to comment.
Shares in Nokia closed 5.57 percent higher while those in France’s Alcatel-Lucent closed 4.82 percent higher. The two companies have reportedly held on and off merger talks in recent years.
Shares in Dutch navigation company TomTom surged more than 11 percent after the news broke.
“We have estimated that HERE’s value is around 3.3-4.8 billion euros, and in a possible deal the price should be more than that,” Inderes Equity Research said on its Twitter account.
Nokia sold its once-dominant phone handset business to Microsoft last year, leaving it with its core network equipment business, HERE as well as its patent division.
HERE last year had net sales of around 969 million euros with an operating profit of 31 million euros. The unit has signed several orders from the car industry recently.