News

Microsoft buys keyboard software maker SwiftKey

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – Microsoft said Wednesday it acquired British-based software keyboard maker SwiftKey, saying it would be integrated with the tech giant’s “intelligent systems” for mobile devices.

SwiftKey makes keyboard apps which are used on some 300 million Android and Apple devices, replacing the default interfaces with a more efficient one.

The price was not disclosed but media reports said Microsoft paid $250 million.

SwiftKey, which uses artificial intelligence to help make keystrokes more intuitive and efficient, expands Microsoft’s efforts in the domain.

“In this cloud-first, mobile-first world, SwiftKey’s technology aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands, and directly supports our ambition to reinvent productivity by leveraging the intelligent cloud,” said Microsoft executive vice president for research and technology Harry Shum.

“SwiftKey estimates that its users have saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes, across 100 languages, saving more than 100,000 years in combined typing time.”

Shum said Microsoft would continue to make the service available on “all platforms,” not just those operated by Microsoft.

“We’ll continue to develop SwiftKey’s market-leading keyboard apps for Android and iOS as well as explore scenarios for the integration of the core technology across the breadth of our product and services portfolio,” he said.

SwiftKey founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock said in a blog post that “joining Microsoft is the right next stage in our journey.”

“Eight years ago we started out as two friends with a shared belief that there had to be a better way of typing on smartphones,” they wrote.

“We’ve come a long way since then; today hundreds of millions of people around the world, and many of the leading mobile manufacturers, rely on our language prediction technology.”

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Gadgets, News

Microsoft is working on a Google Cardboard-rival called VR Kit

Microsoft is currently working on a new Google Cardboard killer, they have named it as the Microsoft VR kit. Microsoft is hosting a Virtual Reality hackathon in Russia, where it will be handing out Microsoft VR headsets to developers.

This is a leaked information and there is no official information about the event as yet.

According to a report by Thurrott, the event will be held next year and that microsoft will aggressively promote this event. However there is no information about when these devices will be available for the general public.

The device is a combo of a lumia device and a cardboard box. It is speculated that Microsoft may release the design for free just as Google did.

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Gadgets

Review of the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

I was given a chance to try out the new Microsoft Arc Touch, Microsoft’s second generation Arc mouse for couple of weeks. Powered by 2x AAA batteries, it incorporates an advanced tracking technology called BlueTrack that was developed by Microsoft.  BlueTrack allows the Arc Touch to be used on virtually any type of surface — including glass. It works via RF wireless which means that its “nano-sized” transceiver needs to be plugged into a free USB port for use.

Another point to note is how the mouse has no scroll wheel; in its place is a flat metal stripe that allows scrolling by touch.  Swiping your finger along the metal results in a slight vibration and soft clicking sound that creates a realistic scrolling effect.

Unpacking

Let’s unpack this shall we?  Inside the box is:

  1. The Arc Touch mouse
  2. Manual Guide

Yeah, that’s right; they are only giving you the manual guide and the mouse itself. It’s very straight forward and plug and use.

I have been using the Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000, which is a fantastic mouse that I’ve been using for almost 2 years now. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the Arc Touch and my current mouse.

Installation

Using the mouse entails plugging the transceiver into a free USB port and switching it on by snapping (bending, actually) the mouse into position. The drivers install automatically and the process was completed in about 10 seconds for me. You will certainly not experience any problems when it comes to installation.

My Experience

I used the mouse for almost 2 weeks as a challenge, and I must confess that I would still prefer my normal mouse. The primary reason is how clicking on the Arc Touch mouse does not feel as pleasant as my normal mouse — slightly more force is required compared to my normal mouse which is simply more “clickable.”

On the other hand, the BlueTrack Technology really did allow the mouse to work on practically all surfaces. I gave it a try on a mirror, glass, rough surfaces, as well as very smooth surfaces where normal mouse simply won’t work.  The Arc Touch excelled and continued to work in all instances.  In addition, I find the texture of the Arc Touch to be just right, and less “plastic” than the first-generation Arc mouse.  In a nutshell, the Arc Touch feels more durable and weights just right.

As a user of a Bluetooth mouse user, I also found it troublesome to keep plugging the receiver into my laptop and losing one USB port. In my opinion, the design to place the receiver at the back of the mouse is not fantastic because it could potentially drop and render your mouse unusable. Like what you can see below, a built-in magnet keeps the receiver at the back of the mouse. I don’t understand why Microsoft can’t find make this mouse into a Bluetooth mouse or perhaps have the receiver slotted into the battery compartment.

In conclusion

The Arc Touch is perfect for frequent travelers who want to easily stow their mouse away, the ability to flatten the mouse for stowing away eliminates unsightly bulges in laptop bags.  Given a choice between Arc Touch and my Bluetooth mouse however, and I would opt for my current Bluetooth mouse as it gives me greater convenience.  Ultimately, the Arc Touch is a good attempt from Microsoft that is a  definite improvement over the older generation of Arc family.

Latest Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse

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News

Microsoft beta-fies Home Server PP3 for Windows 7

Microsoft is looking for guinea pigs to test Windows Home Server Power Pack 3 beta, which is – predictably – built around Windows 7.

Pioneering souls with Windows 7 on a home computer or currently running Windows Home Server can sign up here on Microsoft’s site.

Power Pack 3 expands the ability to create image-based backups to Windows 7 machines in addition to XP SP2 and Vista machines.

Microsoft is also pitching PP3 as a storage and backup solution for netbooks and other small, cheap computers as a way to augment their limited storage space. The latest update now supports a resolution of 1024×600 so netbook owners can use their miniature screen as the interface and playback device for Home Server.

 

Power Pack 3 also lets users share music, photos, and videos to Windows 7 Libraries, allowing the content to be shared from a central addressable location across all other Windows 7 computers attached to the network.

Windows Search 4 is baked into PP3 for speedier search times, indexing times, and stability across all document libraries on the network. Files encrypted with Encrypting File System (EFS) are now supported with search.

The TV Archive option in Windows Media Center will now lets users record television to the home server running PP3 beta in smaller resolutions for Windows Mobile devices (320×240, 500 Kbps) and the Zune (640×480, 1500 Kbps). It appears Microsoft is still keeping the format of the videos limited to WMV files — so non-Microsoft devices that can take advantage of this new feature are still rather limited.

Microsoft has the full runaround of its Windows Home Server PP3 beta program on its Home Server blog. ®

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