Twitter updates its Windows Phone 8 app with arty photo filters, Vine playback and Lens app support

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Twitter updated its Windows Phone 8 app today with a number of new features aimed squarely at photographers, including artistic filters, Lens app integration and the ability to play Vine clips directly within tweets.

The social network added basic editing and vintage filters to its Android and iOS apps back in December 2012, combating Instagram’s ballooning userbase and the revamped Flickr iOS app that Yahoo released shortly afterwards.

These photo filters, supplied by Aviary’s photo-editing SDK, have been strangely absent from the Windows Phone 8 app over the last six months or so. The update today offers an improved tweet composition experience, which includes the aforementioned support for photo filters.

twitter wp8 Twitter updates its Windows Phone 8 app with arty photo filters, Vine playback and Lens app support

“Just tap the camera icon to capture an image from your phone’s viewfinder, or pull in a shot from your Camera Roll,” a post on the Windows Phone blog reads.

The app now has the same eight filters offered in the iOS and Android apps: Vignette, Warm, Cool, 1963, 1972, Golden Hour, Antique and Black & White, which the user can apply individually. There’s no support for adding multiple filters, however.

Clips uploaded through Vine, the popular six second video-sharing app owned by Twitter, will now also appear directly within tweets, saving users the hassle of tapping through to the dedicated webpage created for each upload. There’s still no Vine app for Windows Phone 8 users, although itrecently launched on Android to considerable fanfare.

Windows Phone 8 device owners can also save tweeted photos to their handset, as well as share images to Twitter through the default Windows Phone camera. Elsewhere, Twitter has also added the ability to refresh lists on-demand, as well as a whole host of bug fixes and minor app improvements.

The updated Twitter app is available now in the Windows Phone store.

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Windows 8 six months in: Thoughts from a power(less) user

It’s been half a year now since Windows 8 officially hit. For those first three months, I coveted it from afar. I was in Ecuador checking out plans to build a Latin American Silicon Valley, and I felt squeamish about upgrading without access to all the backups, support, and even the reliable postal service we take for granted in North America, should something go wrong.

That turned out to be a smart decision.

Upon my return, I kept one of my New Year’s resolutions and dove headfirst into what I hoped would be a quantum leap forward in productivity and general operating system awesomeness. I upgraded my Windows 7 Dell laptop and shortly thereafter ordered a Surface Pro.

It turned out to be quite handy having the Surface Pro after the Windows 8 update crippled some key functions of my Dell laptop. Interestingly, numerous Google products barely function on my Dell machine running Windows 8. To be fair, some Dell drivers, and Google’s insistence on building Flash into Chrome and other products like Google+ Hangouts, seem to be at the root of the problem, but the problems still speak to the strained relationships between Microsoft and its OEMs and competitors and the stunning overall lack of support for Windows 8, especially when compared with past Windows launches. More on that further down.

That was my somewhat painful introduction to Windows 8. Three months later, and even after getting started with my Surface Pro, I’m still too stubborn to roll back my Dell machine to Windows 7, even though some problems still persist. I’ll explain why in my six reflections on the first six months since Windows 8 officially dropped.

See, the thing is that:

1. I love the concept of Windows 8. Many months ago I wrote about how I’d love to be able to make my Nexus 7 my primary device. I know plenty of you feel the same way about your iPads as well. Of course, Android tablets and the iPad don’t quite have the same level of flexibility and productivity power that Windows addicts like me have become accustomed to.

Windows 8 touch systems, in particular the Surface Pro seem, on the er… surface, to bridge the gap between our increasingly mobile, touch-screen-centered existence and the persistent need to maintain the levels of productivity we’ve come to expect from legacy Windows (or OSX or Linux) systems.

Android and iOS have come to be really good at what they do well, even exceeding the capability of Windows for certain things like sharing and app interoperability. So for the first hour of using my Surface Pro I was psyched. It seemed that everything I loved about Android (the place where I live for most things to do with my social, day-to-day, on-the-go life) and Windows (where I get work done) had been baked into this slick little slate. Unfortunately, I quickly came to another realization:

2. Windows is a continent, not an ecosystem. I mean, of course there is such a thing as a Windows ecosystem, but over the decades it has grown to such an extent that it barely resembles the picturesque walled garden of a place like iOS where all things interact in a sort of harmony. It’s more like a huge continent that various platforms are trying to colonize.

Every time I boot up my Surface Pro, it’s like watching this ongoing battle of colonial powers all fighting for my attention. Will I choose to support an expedition that begins via the lush lands of the new Windows 8 Start screen? Or will I play it safe and devote my time to the established and more secure stronghold of the legacy desktop? Perhaps I’ll go totally gonzo and explore via the app-rich lands of Bluestacks? Maybe stay close to the ship and do as much as I can on the Web via Chrome? Ah, but which mode of Chrome do I need — desktop mode or Win8? Internet Explorer seems to take well to this strange new environment for once.

The result is a kind of crippling chaos that most often forces me to retreat into the familiar security of a browser window or the legacy desktop for most tasks. But speaking of explorers…

3. Where are the devs? So the common wisdom is that iOS is where the money is for app developers; I get that. But principles of supply and demand should still be in effect in this universe. Fact is that while demand for Windows 8 has been soft, I don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon, given the enormous market share that legacy Windows versions enjoy.

The undersupply of Windows 8 apps is simply staggering. Sure, designing Windows Phone apps didn’t become the cash cow Microsoft might have hoped, but Redmond is clearly all in on competing with the Google Play and iTunes stores.

Maybe I should stop beating around the bush and just come right out and beg developers to start coding for Windows 8, and Microsoft to give them the tools and incentives to make it worth their while. Please help us, folks. It’s a virtual desert in the Microsoft store.

Speaking of the seeming lack of brain power on the Windows 8 development side of things:

4. Where did everything go? Yes, I couldn’t forget all the complaints we’ve already heard about Windows 8. They can mostly be boiled down to “Why did you guys feel a need to hide practically everything?” Apparently we can’t have a Start button and a Start screen. And for some reason it takes 18 clicks and reciting a brief dance routine to restart your system.

But the real problem here seems to be Microsoft’s attempt to do the impossible: stuff a brand new user experience on top of an old one, add a new form of user interaction (touch), and then integrate them and make them as intuitive and easy to use as possible. If it’s too complicated for me to figure out, my neighbor buying his first system to use with his small business is totally screwed. But that said:

5. The integration of touch in Windows 8 is actually a win, it’s just not done.

During rare occasions when I can get things done via the Start screen and apps designed especially for Windows 8 like Skype and Evernote, it can be a delightful experience. It’s a hint of that potential I mentioned earlier in the successful merging of a mobile OS with legacy Windows.

Redmond landed on the shores of my brain decades ago and planted its flag with an MS-DOS command prompt.

Unfortunately, those moments have been few and far between the past few months. Even worse, most touch-based Windows 8 apps seem to be crippled in strange and inexplicable ways, or maybe some functions are just hidden too deep within the “Charms” bar for mere mortals to locate. Either way, there is work that remains to be done, and I’m hopeful that many of these fixes will be granted from upon high in the Pacific Northwest in a future update, which is why:

6. I’m not giving up. Maybe it’s not quite right that the continent of my attention is what Microsoft and others are trying to colonize with new ecosystems. Maybe it’s far beyond that. Maybe I’m just another of the conquered and Windows is my conqueror. Redmond landed on the shores of my brain decades ago and planted its flag with an MS-DOS command prompt. Then they wowed me with Windows 3.x and the majesty of Windows 95.

Since then I’ve been courted by other colonial powers, but I was conditioned at a young age to the ways of Windows and — no matter how it came to be this way — it still feels like home. Now my home has just received a fresh coat of paint. And even if the painters did a shoddy job and painted over all the switches and outlets and left a mess on the hardwood floor, I’m willing to wait for them to come clean things up and get my home looking better than ever.

Microsoft Confirms Windows 8 And Office Price Cuts For OEMs

Microsoft Confirms Windows 8 And Office Price Cuts For OEMsA couple of months ago we heard a rumor that suggested that Microsoft could be looking to cut the price on Windows 8 and Office in a bid to attract more OEMs to their platform. As it turns out the rumor was true as Microsoft has confirmed this themselves. This is according to Microsoft’s OEM division head, Nick Parker, who confirmed this during Computex 2013 which is currently held in Taiwan. However the price cuts do have some conditions attached, one of the main ones being that this is only applicable to OEMs who plan to manufacture smaller-sized Windows devices, basically tablets or laptops that are 10.1” in size or smaller.

Microsoft is supposedly cutting the licensing price by two-thirds, which is said to be roughly $100 before rebates. It definitely sounds like a pretty good incentive to get more OEMs on board, especially with the previous rumor suggesting that Windows RT could be getting a price cut as well to help attract more OEMs to make ARM-based Windows RT tablets as well.

HP Unveils Tegra 4 Powered SlateBook x2 and Split x2 Windows 8 Hybrid Tablets

American-based technology firm expanded its x2 line up with the addition of two new hyrbid models dubbed Split x2 and SlateBook x2.

The SlateBook x2 Android tablet sports a 10.1-inch 1920×1200 touchscreen and is powered by 1.80GHz Nvidia Tegra 4 quad-core processor. The tablet comes with 2GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage which can be expanded using the SD card slot. It runs on Android 4.2.2 and houses a 1080p rear-facing camera and a 720p front-facing camera. It also has stereo speakers with DTS+ sound HDMI port and 1x USB 2.0 port.

“Customers want to access and share content anywhere, anytime, on any internet connected device–and they expect those connections to be seamless,” said Ron Coughlin, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer PCs, HP.

On the other hand, the Windows 8 powered Split x2 hybrid packs a 13.3-inch screen with 1,366×768 resolution. It houses 2GB RAM and 4GB RAM along with a 500GB hard drive. It sports an 8-megapixel  rear camera, two speakers with Beats Audio, an SD/microSD card reader, HDMI port, 1x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports.

Both devices pack two batteries, however the capacity of the battery is not known yet.

“The HP SlateBook x2 and the HP Split x2 are next-generation devices and the latest examples of our continued commitment to evolving the computing experience by providing the flexibility necessary for customers to be productive at home, at the office or on the go,” said Ron Coughlin.

HP’s SlateBook x2 and Split x2 are expected to hit the stores in August with a price-tag of $480 and $800, respectively.

How To Create A Windows 8 Installation DVD Or USB Stick

You may not realise this (I didn’t), but the Windows 8 upgrade tool actually gives you the option to create a DVD or USB — you just have to get past the activation screen first. Here’s what you do:

Download the Windows 8 Installer from Microsoft’s web site and run it on an existing Windows system. It doesn’t actually have to be the PC you want to upgrade, even though it says so — heck, it can be a PC you’ve already upgraded to Windows 8.
  1. If it prompts you for licence details, enter the key you received when you originally bought Windows 8.
  2. Once you have passed the licensing screen, it will ask you how you want to install Windows 8. Choose “Install by Creating Media.”
  3. It will now give you a choice between a flash drive or an ISO file. If you want to create a thumb drive, choose “USB Flash Drive” — if you want to create a DVD, choose “ISO File.”
  4. If you chose the ISO file, you can now burn it to a DVD with a tool such as ImgBurn.

Note that if you create the installation media on a 32-bit PC, you’ll get a 32-bit ISO, and if you create it on a 64-bit PC you’ll get a 64-bit ISO. Also note that you won’t be able to use this disc to do a clean install on an empty hard drive if it’s an upgrade version of Windows 8, but you should be able to do a clean install over an existing copy of Windows.

Once you read the steps, the process is extremely obvious, but if you aren’t aware that the option exists, you might be confused about how to burn a more traditional disc (I know I was).

Microsoft Issues Another Warning of XP’s Demise

Microsoft is reminding customers once again that Windows XP has less than a year to live until life support is switched off. The warning arrives as the Redmond company is gearing up to launch a preview of Windows 8.1 next month during the BUILD 2013 developers conference. The current warning is aimed primarily at small businesses reluctant to upgrade, but it also applies to all users still clinging to the ancient OS.

“Small businesses, we know you love Windows XP. It’s been good to you. But it’s 12 years old, and the time has come to start bidding it a fond farewell,” said Microsoft’s Jennifer Chen. “The unfortunate fact is that it’s out of date and support for it will end on April 8, 2014 – less than a year from now. Are you ready?”

Many may not be. In fact, many businesses and consumers may still think Windows XP will be supported by Microsoft despite the warnings. While speaking with one local retailer, the manager swore up and down that Microsoft will keep supporting the platform beyond May 2014 given that this particular chain has stores spread out across the country. After arguing back and forth with us over the subject, he still didn’t get the message, and said that HP would keep Windows XP supported indefinitely.

The scary aspect of this reluctance is that this chain holds the personal records of millions of customers. Another local business we spoke to was just as reluctant about upgrading, but a quick glance at the screen showed that even security updates issued by Microsoft weren’t installed. Again, like the former chain, this company holds personal records of all its customers. Imagine what will happen after April 2014.

“What does end of support mean? It means no security updates,” Chen added. “No free or paid assisted support options, and no updates to online content. Using new hardware and software will become increasingly difficult and incompatible.”

In 1Q13, Windows XP’s market share of the OS market was 38.31 percent, following Windows 7 which commanded 44.72 percent. The usage of Windows XP has dropped to some degree over the past year, but not as much as Microsoft would probably like. In June 2012, the platform owned 43.61 percent of the market, and by December it still retained 39.08 percent. That said, Microsoft has a long way to go before Windows XP is completely out of the picture.

Windows 8 hits 100 million sales, Microsoft working to address user complaints

Officials from Microsoft revealed the 100 million sales figure to media outlets last week, but it was only publicly released on Monday, according to Reuters. The sales pace for Windows 8 roughly matches that of Microsoft’s successful Windows 7, but observers doubt that the new system is on track to have an impact comparable to the older one.

In the past four months, Windows 8 has sold 40 million units, lower than Windows 7’s average sales rate. Windows 7, though, had the benefit of replacing the much maligned Windows Vista. Windows 8, meanwhile, represents Microsoft’s attempt to counteract the ongoing popularity of Apple’s iPad, even as the PC market that supported Microsoft and its hardware partners looks to be crumbling.

The traditional computing market — the so-called “Wintel” grouping of Microsoft, Intel, and a collection of PC manufacturers — suffered its biggest decline ever last quarter, dropping 14 percent year-over-year. A soft global economy, the rise of smartphones and tablets, and a plateau in overall PC design have all played a part in the market’s stagnation and decline, but observers also point the finger at Microsoft, whose Windows 8 marked a significant departure from the standard set by the preceding editions.

The touch-centric Modern UI featured in Windows 8 was Microsoft’s answer to the rise of iOS and Android, which dominate a mobile device segment where Microsoft has been largely unable to gain traction. Consumers balked, though, at Windows 8’s marked difference from its predecessors, especially the move away from a traditional desktop into the Metro UI’s tile-based touch environment and the apparent abandonment of the familiar Start button.

Windows 8 also suffered from high component prices in the touch-enabled computers it is meant to power. Microsoft has responded by cutting licensing prices for Windows 8 on some devices, as well asencouraging its partners to develop smaller Windows 8 form factors in order to compete with the iPad mini and other mid-size tablets.

Tablets running Windows 8 combined to grab about 7 percent of the market in the first quarter of last year. Apple’s iOS held roughly 48 percent of the market, while Google’s Android operating system grew to 43 percent.

The flat consumer response to Windows 8 has been likened to Coca-Cola’s launch of New Coke some 30 years ago, notes The Financial Times. Coca-Cola, though, dropped its New Coke formula after only three months of consumer backlash, while it apparently takes longer to turn around a software giant.

Microsoft is trying to turn it around, though: The Redmond giant is preparing a follow-up to Windows 8,currently codenamed Windows Blue. That version, also known as Windows 8.1, is said to include the ability to boot straight to the traditional desktop, largely bypassing the “Modern” environment. Microsoft will be revealing more about the update’s functionality in the coming weeks, but for now the company says it will be doing more to help consumers adapt to new features.

“The learning curve is real, and we need to address it,” Tami Reller, Microsoft’s Windows unit co-head, said to Reuters. “We’re not sitting back and saying they will get used to it.”