Outlook.com turns one
This week, precisely on July 31st, marked the first anniversary of Outlook.com which was released a year ago. Microsoft introduced its revamped webmail service, which is more than a rebrand of the old Hotmail, as a new way to do email that aligns with a modern experience for modern browser and devices, and putting you in control. Just like Windows 8 and its accompanying services were re-imagined to offer a modern and refresh experience, the software giant touted the fledging webmail service as less-cluttered with a user interface aiming to increasingly make email more effective.
One of the most notable aspect of Outlook.com in comparison to its retired sibling, Hotmail, was the technology Microsoft had opted to use for synchronization. Unlike Hotmail, Outlook.com implementation is based on Exchange ActiveSync; the same synchronization method that is used on mobile devices and the Microsoft Outlook desktop application, which guarantees a seamless experience between all types of devices. The new webmail service also integrates with several social network initially with Facebook, Twitter and more recently Skype. For many, Outlook.com introduced an awaiting refresh especially against Gmail which was considered as the best webmail service at the time.
And for the first anniversary of Outlook.com, Microsoft took the occasion to remind us some the milestones that they reached and some of the improvement and features that have been implemented all year long. Since its release, Outlook.com has gathered more than 400 million users which encompasses new users as well as existing users of the already-forgotten Hotmail. The number of users continue to grow considerably and maybe by the time Outlook.com turns two years old, it will probably be the number one webmail service in term of the number of users. There are also more than 600 changes to the service as well as 34 new features that are based on – wait for it – consumer feedback. Luckily, the Outlook team was able to get most of the features of Outlook.com right without having to do a 180 degree like the Windows team did with the release of Windows 8.1 (which was based on consumer feedback to fix what was wrong with Windows 8).
There are other notable features and improvements that they implemented throughout the first year such as drag & drop, chat with Google friends, Skype integration, sign with alias, and the two-step verification which adds a layer of security, especially when the NSA is so busy reading your personal email. Microsoft has also improved SkyDrive, adding better sharing features.
SkyDrive comes with new features and lost its name
Talking about SkyDrive, Microsoft was busy celebrating the anniversary of Outlook.com’s release as well introducing new feature for their cloud storage service, it appeared that the software giant did not take the time to find a better name that does not infringe on existing trademark (being sarcastic here). Over in the UK, Microsoft was found guilty of infringing on the trademarked ‘Sky’, which belong to British Broadcasting. The software giant will be forced to shrug off the name SkyDrive for something else. I guess we can say that SkyDrive just got metrofied (get it?).
While we are not sure what will be the new name for the software giant’s cloud storage service, which has become such an integral part of many other products such as Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox, what is certain is that the rebranding of the service will definitely be costly. What is even more surprising about this whole trademark fiasco is the fact that Microsoft had gently decided not to appeal the decision. The software giant could alternately pursue the case which probably cost them as much for an attempt to retain the name SkyDrive instead of rebranding the service.
For once, we get to see the soft side of Microsoft. While many users who have grown fond of the name SkyDrive will probably be disappointed with the imminent rebrand of the service, it is not all bad. Microsoft has introduced some new features this week that many users can enjoy while waiting on the new name. Some of these features include the support for more file types, new editing features allowing users to tweak their photos, some easier sharing capabilities, and the addition of native text editing. These features are already available. In the meantime, if you were in charge to rebrand SkyDrive, what name would pick?
Instagram-Windows Phone confusing love/hate affair
Other notable news of the week was the sudden assault of Instagram on Windows Phone users using third-party apps. Since the release of Windows Phone nearly 3 years ago, Microsoft’s mobile operating system has suffered from “there isn’t an app for that”. Just like Apple decided to trademark “there’s an App for that,” if Microsoft has gone the opposite way to trademark, “There’s not an App for that” for Windows Phone, they there would have gotten in a trademark litigation like they did with SkyDrive (side-note, I have to admit that I have gotten used to the name SkyDrive will deeply miss it).
Anyways, the truth is that the number of official apps has constantly been getting better after the release of Windows Phone 8. Nevertheless, an official Instagram app is one of the many apps that has yet to make an appearance despite the conjoint effort of Microsoft and Nokia. Thankfully, third-party developers have been to the rescue of Windows Phone users until this week after Instagram, for some reason, had decided to block users from actually uploading, editing and viewing their pictures using third-party apps. After the news quickly spread on Twitter, an Instagram spokesperson attributed the issue to a “recent update to the system that that [they] use to fight spam to help prevent future attacks and increase security.” Several popular apps like Instance were unable to work.
Thankfully, Instagram came to its senses and reverted some of the changes that disrupted the service for users using third-party apps. Following this situation, one has to wonder whether the refusal of releasing an official app for Windows Phone has to do with the number of users on the platform. With Windows Phone gaining constant market share quarterly, the growing number of users on the platform should be enough for Instagram to release an app for Windows Phone; but for some reason they haven’t done it yet.
I guess holding back guarantees more leverage when it comes to financial negotiation with Microsoft and Nokia. Second, if it true that there is not enough Windows Phone users to release an official Instagram app, why would they revert a wide-spread security update so that users can use their service through third-party apps? There is only one viable explanation to this whole Instagram-Windows Phone love/hate affair. Instagram, though very popular as a service, does not spawn considerable advertising profits for Facebook. The only clear way that the service generate money is when other platform pay to have official supports from the social sharing service. It is simply a financial issue, not the number of users that Instagram portrays it to be. There are already enough Windows Phone users for an official Instagram app, Microsoft and Nokia just need to come with a fatter check.
Xbox One is getting better after the Microsoft blunder during the initial unveiling
The general consensus since prior to the release and after the general unveiling of the Xbox One, Microsoft’s next gaming console generation, is that the software giant has made a subpar job touting the benefits of the new console. The situation did not get better when Sony took advantage of Microsoft‘s blunder to shout the benefits of the PS4 in term of playing used games and not constantly checking the user for DRM. With a growing and prolonged PR disaster, Microsoft was forced to revert some of the initially policies that was implemented with the Xbox One.
But as each week passes by, Microsoft is constantly announcing new features that many users will certainly welcome. If you have pre-ordered an Xbox One, there were some notable news this week that will certainly make you not regret your decision. First, Microsoft announced that Xbox LIVE Gold subscribers will have unlimited cloud storage through whatever the new name Microsoft will use for the infringed trademark SkyDrive cloud service. Gold subscribers will jump from a mere 512MB to unlimited access and that probably a good deal for the price for a gold subscription considering how much it will cost to have unlimited storage from other cloud storage services.
Starting this week, you can pre-order the new Xbox One wireless controller as well as other accessories such as a charger kit and a headset. There were rumors that Microsoft was going to include the headset as part of the Xbox One overall system, but there rumors turned out to be false. It just one of these rumors that you wish was true. The price of the new controller, the charger kit, and the headset will be $59.99, $74.99, and $24.99 respectively.
And if Microsoft was on the down side to the PS4 when it comes to public image, at least one important area where both gaming consoles are in-par is graphic processing power. Apparently, Microsoft next gaming generation will be released with a better graphic processing unit. In fact, Microsoft has boost the GPU from 853MHZ up from 800MHZ. While this is does not appear to be a significant number, it guarantees an overall better experience. At least, new Xbox One users can argue with their PS4 counterparts that both gaming consoles are equal which has been the winning argument of the PS3 against the current Xbox generation, the Xbox 360.
Microsoft has reportedly optimized the graphics driver for the new console too. And if you wondered why the Xbox One console is noticeably huge compared to the more slimmed Xbox 360, Microsoft found it necessary to facilitate the dissipation of air that will allows the system to be quiet. In fact, that will be necessary if Microsoft expects people to use the new system as an entertainment system. More importantly, unlike the first generation of Xbox which were maligned with the notorious red ring, the Xbox One is manufactured for lifecycle spanning of an entire decade.
And if your dream was to be a part of a law enforcement team of a gaming console, Microsoft will make your dream come true with the LIVE Enforcement Team. This program aims to ensure that other Xbox members maintain the Xbox Live Code of conduct. Don’t worry, you will not have to attend a law enforcement academic institution. Those who are willing to participate will simply join the Enforcement United beta which is charged with the duty of determining whether particular contents and Gamertags adhere to the code of conduct.
If you a regular Xbox user and you are part of the Xbox community, one of the nagging aspect in the Xbox Live community is the behavior of certain member abusing the system. Now you have a take on it and you can brag to your PS4 counterparts that you are now an Xbox Law enforcer.