Cortana BETA vs. Google Now: How does Microsoft’s assistant for Android stack up?

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Late last week, Microsoft made its Cortana digital assistant available as a beta for Android, and we’ve been putting it through its paces ever since to see how it stacks up against Google Now. To compare, we put together a list of all the things we think a good assistant should be able to do, then tested them both using the same commands. Read more

First Look at the Microsoft Cortana beta on Android (Video)

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Microsoft recently released its Cortana digital assistant as a beta app, and we’ve been able to get our hands on the preview. Apart from its Material-like design, the app looks, performs, and acts just like the Cortana on Windows Phone. You can ask it to set reminders, give you directions and weather information, or do simple arithmetic. It has its limitations and doesn’t feel quite as intuitive or in-depth as Google Now or Siri, but it has its uses.

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Microsoft’s Cortana for Android beta leaks a bit early, we try it out [Gallery]

Microsoft announced last month that its Cortana voice assistant would be coming to Android in beta at some point in July, but it looks like the APK has managed to leak out a bit early. We grabbed it as soon as we could, and decided to give it a look. And our first impression, frankly, is that there’s not really anything special about Cortana — especially when Android has Google Now, Hound, and other competitors to pick from. Read more

Microsoft de-emphasising phone hardware, writes off more than it paid for Nokia, cuts 7,800 jobs

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Windows Phone has not been the greatest success story in the world, and Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia to produce its own handsets looks to have been an even bigger flop. The company today announced that it is writing off $7.6B against the Nokia business – more than it paid for the company in the first place.

Microsoft has also revealed that it will be laying-off 7,800 staff – more than 6% of its workforce – over the next few months, mostly from the Phones business …  Read more

Yahoo trialling Google ads in search despite earlier objections by Dept of Justice

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Yahoo is currently including Google ads in some of its search results in what the company described to the NY Times as a “small test.” The ads were first spotted by SEO Book.

Yahoo confirmed on Wednesday that it has begun testing the use of Google search ads for a small portion of its desktop and mobile web search results. “As we work to create the absolute best experiences for Yahoo users, from time to time, we run small tests with a variety of partners including search providers,” the company said.

Google offered Yahoo an ad partnership all the way back in 2008, but pulled out after objections from the Department of Justice on antitrust grounds …  Read more

UK tax authorities adopting Google Apps, offshore data storage and all

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The UK tax body, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has completed a successful trial of Google Apps and will be rolling out the service to more of its staff throughout the year, reports The Register.

HMRC has 70,000 staff, and as such will be Whitehall’s first mass deployment of Google’s cloud services […]

David Fitton, head of public sector sales for Google UK, wrote on Linkedin: “The acceptance by HMRC that they can store official information offshore in Google data-centres represents a major change and endorsement of Google’s approach to managing sensitive information.”

HMRC said that it had “carefully considered the protection of customer information” when making the decision …  Read more

Microsoft launches its Office Lens document scanner app on Android

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Continuing with Microsoft’s new mission under CEO Satya Nadella to make its productivity software available everywhere that potential customers are, the company officially released its Office Lens document scanner app for Android today to the Google Play Store.

Microsoft ran a public preview of Office Lens for Android from April 2nd up until today through the Google+ communities method, which they say had over 130,000 testers, and Android was the only place where they tested it with users before launch. Here’s how the company describes the functionality of Office Lens in its announcement: Read more

Microsoft’s Google Now competitor Cortana coming to Android in June, plus tight integration with Windows (Video)

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Reuters reported back in March that Microsoft planned to bring its Google Now competitor Cortana to Android, and Microsoft has now officially confirmed this in a blog post.

Today, we’re announcing a Cortana application for Android phones and for iPhones which works as a companion to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC. The ‘Phone Companion’ app on the PC will help you install the Cortana app from the Google Play or Apple App Store onto your phone so you’ll be able to take the intelligence of Cortana with you, wherever you go […]

The Cortana companion will be available for Android phones at the end of June and for iPhones later this year.

While Microsoft is pitching the intelligent assistant as a companion to a Windows PC, it appears that most of the functionality will work in the Android app without the need for a Windows device, Microsoft saying that you can “make the same queries, ask the same questions” in the standalone app …  Read more

Microsoft launches Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for Android phones in beta

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Microsoft has this morning launched the smartphone counterpart of its previously tablet-only word processing suite for Android. Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps on the Play Store have now—appropriately—ditched the “for Tablet” part of their name, and beta testers now have access to these apps with smartphone support baked right in… Read more

Preview version of Microsoft Hyperlapse now available on Android, smoothing timelapse video

Timelapse videos are a great way to share experiences like cycle rides, hikes or road-trips, where you want to show all the scenery in a clip short enough that your friends will actually watch. But conventional timelapse video tends to look rather jerky – the problem Microsoft set out to solve with Hyperlapse.

The software is now available for beta-testing on Android, and early indications are that it produces impressive results – as you can see in the sample video above of a walk across London’s Millenium Bridge …  Read more

Microsoft announces new tool for effortlessly porting Android apps to Windows 10

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Microsoft announced today during its Build conference that it will release a tool for developers to port their Android apps directly to Windows 10 as “universal apps” that run on both phones and desktop computers. Developers will be able to feed their existing Java and C++ code into a new software package and have it converted to work on the upcoming PC operating system.

At least, that’s how Microsoft is pitching it, though the whole process is a bit more complex. Essentially Windows 10 will ship with APIs that mirror the expected behavior of many Android APIs, and this new conversion tool will help developers swap out Android code for matching Windows code.

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Nokia plans a second coming to right the Elop wrong and build Android phones

The Nokia Brand phone company that Microsoft subsumed may be on the verge of a comeback to phones if recent rumors prove true.  According to a recent report, the new/old Nokia will begin producing phones as soon as it is contractually able to do so and those phones unsurprisingly will run a flavor of Android.

Unlike other patent houses that do little more than license intellectual property, Nokia Technologies has designed new products and licensed them to other companies. So far, these ambitions have been small in scale. The division has released just two products — an Android program called Zlauncher and the N1, an Android tablet design it licensed to another manufacturer that is selling it under the Nokia name in China. Its return to the market is likely to employ a similar tactic.

But insiders said those two products are just the beginning.

“They have a lot of great stuff in development,” said Richard Kerris, a former Nokia executive who also consulted for the company until last year as part of his last startup.  “It gave me complete confidence that Nokia is a company that is not going away.”

While Kerris said he couldn’t go into specifics, he said people will be blown away if some of the stuff he saw comes to market.

If you consider Nokia’s N1 Android tablet, the first to use the newly popular USB-C type of interface, which apparently, it can release outside of its Microsoft agreement the rumor isn’t surprising. In fact, it is pretty obvious.

But this whole episode really stinks to me. Microsoft’s Stephen Elop moved to Nokia in 2010 from Microsoft. Within months, he wrote a frightening memo that the company had to shift courses and eventually move to Microsoft’s shifting phone OS which was as disastrous a decision as it could make. Then, as the value of the company was rapidly depleted based off of that poor decision, the smartphone part of the business with Elop in tow gets bought by Microsoft at a steep discount.

Now, a lifetime later in mobile phone years, Nokia is doing what it should have done a long time ago and move to Android. Perhaps there is still some life left in the company.  We’ll see. Read more