Microsoft casts a bigger net around Nokia, acquires its business and patents

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 9th, 2013

In 2011, Microsoft and Nokia entered into a “strategic alliance” that formally made Windows Phone Nokia’s “principal smartphone strategy.” Two years later, Microsoft is acquiring “substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents, and license and use Nokia’s mapping services.” MSFT is ponying up 5.44 billion euros (or $7.2 billion) to gobble up virtually all that is Nokia: 3.79 billion euros ($4.99 billion) grants Microsoft Nokia’s business and another 1.65 billion euros ($2.18 billion) allows the Windows company access to Nokia’s patents.

Says Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured above, left): “It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies. Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services. In addition to their innovation and strength in phones at all price points, Nokia brings proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.”

It makes sense–Nokia has been hard at work pushing the Windows Phone mobile OS with their lineup of Lumia smartphones. Once this acquisition completes (it’s expected to sometime in 2014) their strategic alliance will grow into a full-blown marriage and the synergy between the two companies should result in a more streamlined product and services lineup.

Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop (pictured above, right) has stepped down from his post and is currently being vetted to take over as Microsoft’s head honcho when Ballmer exits next year.

[Via Engadget 1, 2; Nokia]

Nokia announces new Windows Phone flagship device Lumia 920 and the mid-range Lumia 820

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 7th, 2012

On Wednesday Nokia and Microsoft held a joint event announcing two new Lumia smartphones that will run the next-gen mobile operating system Windows Phone 8. The new flagship WP8 device is dubbed the Nokia Lumia 920 and its specs are as follows: 4.5-inch (1280 x 768) display, 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB memory, back-facing 8.7 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, Carl Zeiss optics, LED flash, and 1080p video recording capability, front-facing camera, integrated 2000mAh battery with wireless charging support. All of this is housed inside a polycarbonate shell that comes in a variety of colors including black, grey, red, yellow, and white. Nokia is touting the phone’s “PureMotion HD+” display as the company’s “brightest, fastest and most sensitive touchscreen (the screen will accept input even if the user is wearing protective gloves);” the “PureView” back-facing camera that uses “advanced floating lens technology” that promises to capture clearer and brighter pictures even in low light situations; and the phone’s wireless charging functionality based on the Qi wireless standard. Place your phone down on a charging surface and it will automagically begin to regain battery life. Nokia will release its own wireless charing platforms and the company is also working with third parties such as Fatboy to sell portable wireless charging pillows. To kickstart the initiative, Nokia has partnered with The Coffee Bean and Virgin Atlantic to install wireless charing stations in countertops and airport lounges.

Also announced at the event is the mid-range alternative Nokia Lumia 820. It sports a smaller 4.3-inch (800 x 480) ClearBlack OLED display, only 8GB of storage (but there’s microSD expandability up to 32GB), a non-PureView 8 megapixel back-facing camera with Carl Zeiss optics and LED flash, and a smaller 1650mAh battery. It packs the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor as it’s bigger sibling, a VGA front-facing camera, and there is support for wireless charging. Users will have the ability to swap out their polycarbonate back cover for a wireless charging-capable one. The Lumia 820 comes in an even great variety of bright colors like red, yellow, grey, cyan, purple, white, and black.

Nokia has not specified pricing and release date information for either device. LTE and HSPA+ variants of the 920 and 820 “are expected to start shipping in select markets later in the year,” says the company’s press release. What you’re left with now are photos of the sleek phones in the galleries below (the 920 above, the 820 below), plus two intro videos and official PR after the break.

[Via Microsoft; Engadget 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

Nokia Lumia 900, the first LTE Windows Phone, is out April 8 at $99.99 on AT&T

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 31st, 2012

Announced in January, the Nokia Lumia 900 smartphone has been tagged with an imminent release date and an affordable price point. The Lumia 900, which will soon become the first Windows Phone to boast 4G LTE, releases into the marketplace on April 8 at $99.99 after a two year contract with AT&T. The handset features a 4.3-inch (800 x 480) AMOLED ClearBlack display, a Carl Zeiss 8 megapixel camera with large aperture (F2.2) and wide angle focal length (28mm) and LED flash that supports 720p HD video capture, and a front-facing camera for video calls. It runs the latest version of Windows Phone, that is 7.5 aka Mango. The Lumia 900 will come in cyan blue and matte black flavors on the 8th, and later on April 22 a high-gloss white version will release. Preorder today. PR after the break.

[Via Engadget 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

4G LTE comes to Windows Phone Mango in HTC Titan II and Nokia Lumia 900

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on January 15th, 2012

Microsoft is heating up the competition by introducing two new 4G LTE enhanced phones for its Windows Phone collection. The HTC Titan II and the Nokia Lumia 900 are in fact the first 4G LTE smartphones to run Microsoft’s latest Windows Phone iteration “Mango.” Let’s start with the Titan II. Besides packing the 4G chip, the new Titan features a giant 4.7-inch super LCD capacitive touchscreen and an impressive 16 megapixel camera with a wide-angle lens, autofocus, and dual LED flash. The rear camera also supports 720p HD video recording, and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing one allows for video chat. Inside you’ll also find a single-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon processor and a 1,730mAh battery.

Nokia’s Lumia 900 is the bigger brother to the Lumia 710, the latter of which is the first smartphone to come out of Microsoft’s strategic alliance with the Finnish handset maker. (The Lumia 710 is now available to buy on T-Mobile for $50 on contract.) The 900 sports a larger 4.3-inch (800 x 480) AMOLED ClearBlack display, a 1.4GHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM, Carl Zeiss-branded eight megapixel camera with large aperture (F2.2) and wide angle focal length (28mm) and LED flash that supports 720p HD video capture. Around the front you’ll find a camera also boasting a large aperture (F2.4) and a wide angle lens. Inside the polycarbonate body lies a sealed 1,830mAh battery. When it becomes available, the 900 will come in two flavors: cyan and matte black.

Microsoft’s first 4G LTE Mango phones are coming exclusively to AT&T later this year. Images below, PR and video after the break.

[Via Engadget 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

Windows Phone-powered Nokia Lumia 710 comes to T-Mobile January 7 for $49.99

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on December 17th, 2011

In October Nokia unveiled its Lumia range of Windows Phone-powered smartphones, the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710. This week T-Mobile became the official carrier of the budget-friendly Lumia 710 and announced that’ll be available next month. The 710, which features a 3.7-inch ClearBlack WVGA scratch-resistant display, a Qualcomm 1.4GHz Snapdragon processor, a 5 megapixel camera, and HSPA+ 14.4Mbps “4G” speed, is being touted by T-Mo as “the perfect first-time smartphone” at the low price of $49.99 after a two-year contract is signed. Also shipping with software like Nokia’s Drive and ESPN apps as well as T-Mobile TV and Netflix, the 710 comes to market in the US on January 11 in black and white variants.

It’s a shame Nokia isn’t promoting the fiercer Lumia 800 before its low-budget brother, let alone alongside it. In my humble opinion, Nokia is making a mistake by allowing customers to think that Windows Phones manufactured by Nokia are “cheap” or lacking competitive features. It would have been smarter to team the 800 with T-Mobile first so that the public could understand that the Finnish company is ready to battle the likes of Apple, Samsung, Motorola, and LG in the States, rather than push out an entry level smartphone for techies to scoff at. Nokia is a deserving phone maker, so here’s to hoping that they get their act together and release the Lumia 800 in the States sooner than later.

[Via T-Mobile] (Click here for more…)

Nokia unveils Lumia range of Windows Phone-powered smartphones

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 26th, 2011

Today at Nokia World in London, Nokia CEO Stephen Elop unveiled the Nokia Lumia range of smartphones. The Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 are the first Nokia smartphones powered by Windows Phone. Remember way back when, when the cell phone manufacturer announced its “strategic alliance” with Microsoft? Well the Lumia handsets announced today are the first products to be born out of the partnership.

The Lumia 800 is the fiercer of the two, sporting a 3.7-inch (800 x 480) AMOLED ClearBlack curved display, a 1.4 GHz processor with hardware acceleration and a graphics processor, 512MB of RAM, an eight megapixel Carl Zeiss optics branded camera lens on the back with a  f/2.2 aperture and 720p HD video recording and playback, and 16GB of internal storage and 25GB of free SkyDrive storage. Quad-band GSM support is included, and users can expect HSDPA download speeds to reach up to 14.4Mbps. The exterior of the super sleek device–which measures 12.1mm thin and is made of durable polycarbonate plastic–isn’t adorned with much. At the top there’s a 3.5mm headphone jack and a tiny door that hides a micro-USB charger port and the SIM slot; the right side has a volume rocker, power button, and a dedicated camera shutter button; the bottom houses the speaker; and that’s pretty much it. The traditional Windows Phone icons (back, home, and search) are capacitive and sit beneath the display. As far as availability is concerned, the Lumia 800 is scheduled to rollout across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK in November. It will then be made available in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan before the end of the year, and in further markets in early 2012. Whether or not the United States is included in that “further markets” category is anybody’s guess at this point. The handset is priced at €420, or about $585.

Moving on to the budget-friendly Nokia Windows Phone, the bulkier Lumia 710 sports the same 1.4 GHz processor as the 800, but the 3.7-inch ClearBlack display is WVGA TFT here and misses out on the 800’s crisper and bolder AMOLED screen. Other specs include 512MB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, plus there’s a five megapixel shooter on the back. It’s also worth noting that the Windows icons (back, home, search) are physical buttons on the 710. Availability goes like this: the Lumia 710 will release first in Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan in November alongside the Lumia 800, and then it will be made available in further markets in early 2012. Again, we don’t know if this handset will make it to U.S. shores. The 710 will sell for €270, or about $375.

Now we must briefly focus on the software. Obviously the Lumia range will be running Microsoft’s latest version of Windows Phone dubbed Mango. What’s slightly disappointing is that (at least in the beginning) Nokia isn’t doing much to differentiate their line of Windows Phones from the current competition. The Lumia range will come packaged with the following three software additions: Drive, Music, and ESPN Sports Hub. The first will provide users with full turn-by-turn navigation; the second will work alongside the Zune player and feature something called Mix Radio that allows users to stream music playlists; and the third will offer up sports stats and related news. For now, these are the only differentiating factors software-wise for Nokia’s Windows Phones. Can Nokia get by solely with their good looks?

Be sure to get a closer look at the Lumia 800 (available in cyan, magenta and black) and the chunkier Lumia 710 (available in black and white with black, white, cyan, fuchsia and yellow interchangeable back covers) in the galleries below. Videos and press releases are after the break. If/when these phones make it to the U.S. I’ll let you know. At some point in the near future (likely by 2012) Nokia will be selling Windows Phones in the States, so rest assured.


[Via Engadget 1, 2, 3] (Click here for more…)

Nokia and Microsoft enter into a “strategic alliance”

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on February 12th, 2011

Bombshell alert! Nokia is ditching its homemade mobile operating systems (read: Symbian and MeeGo) for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. Today Nokia’s newly appointed CEO Stephen Elop announced that the Finnish company will enter into a “strategic alliance” with Microsoft that will make Windows Phone 7 Nokia’s “principal smartphone strategy.” Elop is hopeful that the marriage between these two companies will result in “a new global mobile ecosystem” based around Nokia’s hardware design and Microsoft’s software architecture. Says the official press release: “Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.”

They’ve also addressed how Nokia’s services will mesh with WP7. Bing will power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices; Microsoft adCenter will provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices; and Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. Nokia’s previously announced Qt development framework will not provided to developers to make apps for Nokia WP7 devices; instead they will be working with Microsoft’s Windows Phone Developer Tools. Ovi Store, Nokia’s content and application store, will integrate with Windows Marketplace.

In a stock exchange release, Nokia lays out their future. “[They] expect 2011 and 2012 to be transition years, as the company invests to build the planned winning ecosystem with Microsoft.” The transition is expected to begin immediately (in fact, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer publicly stated that the WP7 engineering team has been working closely with Nokia hardware designers for some time now) and Nokia hopes to start shipping WP7-powered devices in significant volume by 2012.

What’s going to happen to Symbian and MeeGo, you ask? Nokia expects to continue to sell many Symbian powered devices in the coming years, but the long-term plan is to eventually and quite abruptly kill off the platform as soon as the WP7 devices make their way into the marketplace. MeeGo, on the other hand, will “become an open-source, mobile operating system project.” Though Nokia plans to ship the first MeeGo based device later this year, they see the brand “not as part of another broad smarpthone platform strategy, but as an opportunity to learn” (read: an experimental platform to help drive future innovation).

To the dismay of the majority of Finnish engineers, I am excited about Nokia’s partnership with Microsoft. To be frank, Symbian and (especially) MeeGo were taking an interminable amount of time to develop and catch up to the competition (read: iOS, Android). It is interesting to note that Nokia was contemplating an alliance with Google to bring the Android platform to Nokia devices, but in the end, says Elop, his company “would have difficulty differentiating within that ecosystem” and the “commoditization risk was very high–prices, profits, everything being pushed down, value being moved out to Google which was concerning to us.” I think this is the perfect marriage, really. Nokia is known for making beautifully detailed, sophisticated hardware and Microsoft’s newborn sleek WP7 OS seems like a natural fit. After years of being stuck in a rut, it was time to shake up the chain of command and with Elop in charge it’s clear to see that he’s a staunch believer in steadfast change, even if it means dropping everything (on the software side) for something starkly different and exciting. I’m looking forward to what Nokia and Microsoft cook up in the coming years. If you want a hint at whats to come, hop after the break to see a mockup of Nokia/WP7 conceptual devices scored exclusively by Engadget. Also there you’ll find a related video spelling out the day’s shattering news.

[Via Nokia (1, 2); Engadget (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)] (Click here for more…)

Teeny tiny Dot stars in the world’s smallest stop motion video

Posted in Design,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on September 23rd, 2010

UK-based animators Aardman were recently entered into the Guinness Book of Records for creating the world’s smallest stop motion video.  Dot, a tiny 0.35 inch model figurine, struggles through a microscopic world made of fabric in this fun one minute thirty-seven second short film.  The video was shot using a Nokia N8, a smartphone that boasts a 12 megapixel camera and Carl Zeiss optics, attached to a CellScope microscope.  Yeah, this is technically a viral marketing stint by Nokia, but that does not take away the sheer magnitude of awesomeness surrounding this record-worthy feat.  Peek after the break to watch a making-of video.

[Via Gizmodo; TechRadar] (Click here for more…)

Cell phone makers respond to Jobs’ claims surrounding Antennagate [Update: Apple throws Moto’s Droid X into the mix]

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 22nd, 2010

Last week Apple CEO Steve Jobs held a press conference to address the iPhone 4 deathgrip situation.  During the presentation he spit out phrases like “phones aren’t perfect” and claimed that the antenna problem is “a challenge for the entire industry.”  To provide factual evidence to back these statements, Jobs showcased videos of the iPhone 3GS, BlackBerry Bold 9700, HTC Droid Eris, and Samsung Omnia II all dropping their signal strength when gripped in a certain way.  (Apple uploaded these videos to their YouTube page.)  Over the course of the next few days following the press conference, RIM, HTC, Samsung, and Nokia shared their thoughts on the matter.  You can be sure they did not take Apple’s “all smartphones have weak spots” accusation lightly.

The first cell phone manufacturer to counter-attack Apple’s claims was Nokia, a company Apple interestingly did not make an example of at the press conference.  Though they agree with the fact that “antenna performance of a mobile device/phone may be affected with a tight grip, depending on how the device is held”, a non-direct jab at Apple comes later in the statement:  “… we prioritize antenna performance over physical design if they are ever in conflict.”  Since Apple did not mention Nokia during the presentation, Nokia kindly left Apple out of their brief statement.  Little did they know that Apple would post a video of the Nokia N97 Mini getting deathgripped on their YouTube site just four days later.

Now let’s hear what the other cell phone makers had to say about their honorary mention.  RIM co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie start the statement off like this: “Apple’s attempt to draw RIM into Apple’s self-made debacle is unacceptable.”  Other choice quotes:  “Apple’s claims about RIM products appear to be deliberate attempts to distort the public’s understanding of an antenna design issue and to deflect attention from Apple’s difficult situation.”  ..  “One thing is for certain, RIM’s customers don’t need to use a case for their BlackBerry smartphone to maintain proper connectivity.”  Yeah, they just said that.

Things cool down a bit with the reactions from HTC and Samsung.  In an exclusive statement to Pocket-lint, HTC’s Eric Lin compared the Droid Eris’ complaint rate to iPhone 4’s.  At the conference, Jobs said that over 0.55 percent of iPhone 4 customers called AppleCare to complain about the antenna problem to date.  Lin shared that “approximately .016% of customers” feel the need to call in about Droid Eris antenna-related issues.  That’s around 34x lower then Apple’s rate.  Although HTC has yet to push out more formal response to the debacle, I’d say they win the point on this one.  Samsung rounds things out with a terse reply saying that the Omnia II’s antenna is located at the bottom of the device, a logical “design [that] keeps the distance between a hand and an antenna.”  Look after the break for the full statements from Nokia, RIM, and Samsung.

All in all I believe that these cell phone makers are justified in responding to Apple’s “Antennagate” mess.  It may be true that most smartphones have weak spots, but it was an obvious design flaw on Apple’s part to both place that spot where a hand is apt to grip the device and point out its exact position with a black strip.  And to reiterate RIM’s closing words, all of these other smartphones do not require a case to function properly.  Handing out free cases is a temporary fix.  To remedy a hardware problem a new, better design must be conjured up.  When it comes time for Apple to reevaluate the situation in September, I hope they have a more permanent fix in the works.

Update: Today (7/26) Apple posted yet another video in attempt to prove that the antenna problem affects most smartphones.  This time around it’s Motorola’s Droid X, one of Verizon’s current flagship phones.  Watch the bars drop from 3 to 0 after the break.

[Via Engadget, here, here, here, here & here] (Click here for more…)

Nokia unveils a revamped Symbian user interface

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on December 6th, 2009

Nokia, Nokia, Nokia.  My first phone was a Nokia.  Granted, it was what they now call a “dumbphone.”  It made calls and sent texts on a colorless screen.  Ever since then I haven’t been a big supporter of the cell phone manufacturer.  Though their modern devices are very sleek and quite beautiful, their user interface is very clunky and not very intuitive.  Think of it as anti-iPhone OS, if you will.  It takes many clicks to get to a simple destination, etc.

This past week Nokia surprised us with a peek into their future user interface that promises to be three times faster than current Nokia Symbian OS devices and much more user friendly.  In fact, Nokia CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo calls the new experience “magical.”  Nokia just might be able to pull this off because they finally understand that their problem lies in the user interface, not the Symbian OS.  Skeptics might advise Nokia to start from scratch but this would be wasteful; the Symbian OS structure has good intentions, it’s just been the way it relays information via the complicated no good user interface that has had users frustrated.

In addition to this major software upgrade coming sometime next year, Nokia also promises new devices with multitouch support on “large capacitive displays.”

Check out the gallery below for some screenshots of the new UI and be sure to look after the break for a video of the announcement and a simulated guided tour.

[Via Engadget]

(Click here for more…)

Nokia N900 ad is not so much an ad than it is an awesome shape-shifting sci-fi spectacular of sorts

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on November 13th, 2009

Though this advertisement for Nokia’s N900 smartphone lacks any surmountable presense of said device there’s something about it that I really enjoy.  Take a look, if you dare.

[Via Gizmodo]

Nokia N900 shows off new software dubbed Maemo 5

Posted in Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on August 28th, 2009

Check out the Nokia Maemo 5 Internet Tablet.

According to Engadget: “The specs include a 3.5-inch 800×480 pixel (resistive) touchscreen, sliding QWERTY, 32GB of on-board storage expandable to 48GB via microSD, GPS/A-GPS, FM transmitter, TV-out, Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi, 1320mAh battery, and 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics and dual-LED flash…ARM Cortex-A8, up to 1GB of application memory, and OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics acceleration…Nokia promises [it] will be a “PC-like experience on a handset-sized device.” It also brings a Mozilla-based Maemo browser with Adobe Flash 9.4 support.”

Looks cool.  Maybe Maemo can salvage what’s left of my interest in Nokia from the dark abyss that is the Symbian OS.

[Via Engadget]