At this point, the cat is pretty well out of the bag. According to multiplesources, Microsoft's press event on Monday will be the launch event for the long-rumored Project Pink mobile phones. These phones will not be running the upcoming Windows Phone 7, but will instead be messaging phones aimed at text-happy teens. By all accounts, the price will be low to lure in this group.
The Pink phones will basically be the updated version of the Sidekick. Microsoft acquired Sidekick maker Danger two years ago. Several months ago the Sidekick servers experienced a serious failure resulting in loss of data. Given the damage done to the Sidekick brand, we'd be surprised if Microsoft chose to actually call these phones "Sidekicks".
Thus far, we've seen two prototypes leaked, both made by Sharp. The first is internally called the Turtle, and is a portrait QWERTY slider. The second, and more mysterious, is often called the Pure. This handset is a landscape slider. The way Microsoft frames these devices, expected to launch on the Verizon network, will be interesting. Redmond runs the risk of overextending themselves in the midst of a mobile reboot. Do you think there's still room in the market for an inexpensive Sidekick-style messaging phone?
North American readers might find it hard to believe, but a number of companies are currently involved in a bidding war over the ICQ instant messaging division of AOL. The service died off for the most part many years ago in North America, but the service still sports over 33 million users worldwide, and is the number 1 provider in Russia with over 8.3 million IM’ers.
The list of interested companies include Google, DST, and Nasper. Google’s interest in ICQ is most likely because of the Russian connection. This is a market where they have struggled somewhat to gain a foothold, and buying into an existing customer base is an easy way to make up some market share.
Microsoft continues to plug away at Wave 4 updates of Windows Live. And the blogosphere continues to gnaw gristle about what changes these updates might include. Fresh meat has been tossed into the mix by Neowin, which claims to have received screenshots of an updated Messenger showing tabs and social streaming in the interface.
Social streaming is the more interesting of the two new features. Parsing Neowin, it appears that realtime updates of friends' Facebook entires, tweets, and blog posts, if enabled, will be displayed on the left side of the Messenger window. The streaming will be managed through Windows Live.
Tabs are a bit more mundane, but are a feature Messenger users have been asking for, and Microsoft promising. Tabs permit the hosting of several conversations in the same window, making it easier for users to manage.
Neowin notes nothing yet is written in stone, but that these screenshots do offer some useful insight into the direction that Messenger might take in its 2010 incarnation.
Quite frankly, we're surprised this one even warranted a study, but in case you didn't already know, firing off emails and swapping instant messages can be a serious time killer and cut into your productivity. But is the effect on your work even greater than you thought?
"Our findings suggest that even seemingly brief and inconsequential on-screen pop-up messages might be impacting upon our efficiency, particularly given their frequency over the working day," said Dr. Helen Hodgetts, co-author of the study at Cardiff University.
Rather than rely on a survey, Hodgetts, along with colleague Professor Dylan Jones, instructed volunteers to work on a simple task of moving different sized disks between three rods. Short on-screen interruptions were given, and even when they lasted only five seconds, the researchers found that it took people longer than normal to finish the next step of the task.
"The interruption breaks our cognitive focus on the task in hand, so we have to work out where we were up to and what we were planning to do next before we can resume the task at our original speed," explained Dr. Hodgetts.
We suppose that's one spin to put on the research. The other? Perhaps doing work and filling out TPS reports are the real time killers, cutting into our Peggle time and whatever other de-stressor we might have going on.
A recent ComScore survey on Internet usage is reporting that Microsoft might not be leading the way in search, but in terms of total hours spend online, it has a commanding lead over its competition. The survey, which measured a whopping 27 billion hours of Internet usage by Web users aged 15 or older is an increase of nearly 24% over the year prior, and of those studied, over 3.9 billion hours were spent using Microsoft services. Google came in a not so close second place with around 2.5 billion hours.
The big winner in the Microsoft portfolio might surprise you however, with about 70 percent of the usage being attributed to Windows Live Messenger. Of course, this number measures time spent “online” and not just those “actively engaged” with the service, but it certainly shows the popularity of Microsoft’s instant messenger. Google’s numbers are pretty typical explain analysts, since they make it their business using search to try and get you “in and out” as quickly as possible. The most successful Google property continues to be YouTube with nearly 1.2 billion hours logged watching video.
Yahoo placed third with 1.7 billion hours, and Facebook commanded a respectable fourth place with 1.4 billion hours. The individual rankings may have been a bit of a shock, but the trend showing “Internet usage on the rise” certainly isn’t. Did any of these results surprise you? Let us know what you think.
Ding! If you're still using AOL's default instant messenger (or Google Talk, or Yahoo! Messenger, or...), then you're missing out on a wide range of alternative features--more than you perhaps though possible in a common messaging application. Or, worse, you're trying to converse with your friends across the various networks by using three or more individual applications at once. While this might have been the only way to bridge the gap between these services before, you can plead ignorance no longer. Start the uninstaller--and this article--and by the time you're finished with both, you'll never go back to the antiquated world of official messaging applications. Third-party is where the real party's at.
What can you expect to find in these open-source and freeware apps? For starters, an interface that combines a number of common messaging networks into a single program. In some cases, you can even lump your friends' various online names across the separate chat networks into a single, unifying alias--click a drop-down box to specify which network you want to reach them on. Beyond that, these programs can bring a number of plugins and external connections to the table. Combine your Facebook and Twitter feeds into your friends list, find out when people are about to message you before they do so, and call your buddies through your messenger interface akin to Skype. And that's just the tip of the IM iceberg.
Get a list of your favorite emoticons ready to go and hit the jump. The competitive world of instant messaging applications awaits!
Instant messaging is a great way to stay in touch, but anybody who uses it extensively knows the pain of having friends spread out over different services. Ever install a bulky and bloated IM client for just one friend? Or wished you could instant message all your groupies without running 5 different chat clients in the system tray? Well IM providers and a handful of crafty open source programmers have listened to our cries. Free browser-based alternatives exist for all the major platforms, and all in one desktop clients are finally able to bring the competing services together.