While people all over the world have been throwing buckets of freezing water over themselves this week (all for a very good cause, of course), the tech world has continued to spin, with its usual mix of official launches, wild rumours and other curiosities.
The week began with the rollout of the Xbox One August Update, bringing all sorts of exciting additions, including a low-battery notification for your controller.
Okay… there was a bit more to it than that, and in fact, some very welcome new features made it to the console, including 3D Blu-Ray functionality, improvements to the Activity Feed, the ability to purchase games and add-on content on your phone or tablet, and availability of OneGuide TV listings in four new markets. Nice.
Less pleasing – and frankly, downright irritating for many – were the changes that Twitter users began seeing this week. First, the company began to ‘experiment’ with randomly retweeting ‘favorites’ on the site, which prompted various reactions from users, ranging from mild eye-rolling to unbridled vitriolic outrage directed towards the company for daring to make such a change.
Imagine how delighted those same users were when Twitter confirmed, two days later, that it is indeed picking and choosing “popular tweets” and “other content that’s popular or relevant” to insert into your Twitter timeline. Some have suggested that the company is trying to make Twitter more like Facebook. Given how some people feel about Facebook, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
But one move this week was met with widespread praise, as HTC finally launched the long-awaited Windows Phone version of its Android flagship. Many were impressed too when it was revealed that the One M8 for Windows offers significantly better battery life than its Android sibling. Could other high-profile Android phones soon be available with Windows Phone on board? We’ll have to wait and see.
There’s not long to wait now until the launch of Apple’s new iPhones though, and this week, the company rolled out its sixth and final beta release of iOS 8. Unlike the earlier betas, Apple chose to seed this release only to a handful of testers, who must approve the build by September 5, ready for the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6L a couple of weeks later.
That wasn’t the only preview OS to be released this week though, as Microsoft also rolled out a preview of a custom minimized version of Windows 8.1, designed for “a new class of small devices”. It’s all part of the ‘Internet of Things’, interconnecting objects that have, until now, had no connectivity or computing functions to speak of.
Microsoft no doubt envisages a world of Windows running on everything from actual windows and coffee mugs, to hairbrushes and talking teddy bears. Scary.
When the Windows teddy bears gain sentience and rise up to enslave us all, of course, we’ll all be screwed – for instead of fighting back, we’ll be too busy reaching for our phones to capture photos and videos as the inevitable global destruction unfolds. Luckily, Microsoft has got us covered, with the upcoming launch of its Lumia 830, which stepped into the limelight this week thanks to some leaked images.
The Lumia 830 is expected to be a mid-range device with a high-end PureView camera – perhaps the same 20MP imaging module from the flagship Lumia 930/Icon and 1520. So despite humanity being crushed under the furry fist of our new cuddly overlords, we’ll no doubt have some excellent quality snaps and vids to help us remember the good ol’ days.
"The human race. See? The end comes as it was always going to: down a video phone."
-- The Doctor
Before that, though – indeed, in just a matter of weeks – we should be getting our first official look at Threshold, the next major version of Windows. This week, a report confidently claimed that Microsoft is “set to unveil Windows 9 on September 30th”, although it then equivocated somewhat by adding the caveat that “this date may change”.
A week earlier, ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley pointed to the same timeframe for the release of a preview version of Threshold, so it seems increasingly likely that we’re just over a month away from finally seeing Microsoft’s vision for the future of Windows coming together.
We end this week’s round up by delighting in the foolishness of comments made this week by those who should really know better than to say such silly things.
First up was Antti Saarnio, chairman of Jolla – the handset company created by former Nokia employees – who claimed this week that Jolla’s Sailfish OS is ‘the third mobile operating system’. Not Windows Phone, or even BlackBerry (both of which are far, far, far larger than Sailfish’s pitifully small market share). Delusion or hype? Either way, his comments were clearly out of touch with reality.
And speaking of which, Rupert Murdoch.
Image credits: 1) Microsoft; 2) PA Images / Andrew Matthews; 3) HTC; 4) Apple; 8) Jolla