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Category: Microsoft

Microsoft Stores taking $25 deposit on Nokia Lumia 900

Nokia Lumia 900

AT&T, Microsoft and Nokia haven't said when the Lumia 900 will hit stores or how much it will cost, but if the flagship Windows Phone is a device you just have to have, you can now pre-order it.

Microsoft's retail stores are currently taking a $25 deposit for those looking to reserve themselves a Lumia 900 on launch day, whenever that is. The deposit offer was first reported by The Verge and confirmed to The Times on Friday through Microsoft Store employees.

Rumor has it that the Lumia 900 could launch in March at a price of about $99 on a 2-year contract, which would undercut top-of-the-line rivals such as Apple's iPhone 4S and the Android Ice-Cream-Sandwich-equipped Galaxy Nexus, built by Samsung.

In the U.S., the Lumia 900 will be exclusive to AT&T and feature a 4.3-inch display, a polycarbonate body in cyan or black, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm single-core processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel/720p video rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.

I spent a bit of time with the Lumia 900 at CES in Las Vegas last month, and the phone did look quite impressive and something I thought could sell at $150 or $200 on a 2-year contract. Check out my hands-on look at the Lumia 900 below.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Facebook.com/nateog

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

Facebook builds lead in display ads as its IPO approaches

Sheryl Sandberg is Facebook’s chief operating officer.

With the filing for its initial public offering expected any day now, Facebook Inc. is extending its lead in online display advertising, which makes up the bulk of its revenue.

The social networking giant’s share of the U.S. online display advertising market grew to nearly 28% for 2011, up from 21% a year earlier, according to research firm ComScore Inc.

Facebook has stayed ahead of Yahoo Inc., which has 11% of the display ad market — and far ahead of Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp.,  each of which has less than 5%, according to ComScore.

Facebook surpassed Yahoo for the first time in 2009, said Andrew Lipsman, ComScore’s vice president of marketing and industry analysis.

The new numbers show that Facebook is persuading Madison Avenue to funnel ad dollars into social media, he said. That success can be credited to Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, a former Google executive who has been instrumental in convincing advertisers that ads on Facebook are far more persuasive because they come via a friend.

Facebook — which has more than 800 million users — also can target ads using personal information that people volunteer on their user profiles and information Facebook gathers on how people spend their time on the site. In addition, brands can form connections with consumers for free through fan pages they create on the service.

Lipsman said the ComScore research puts into perspective how Facebook has come to dominate display advertising.

“If we think back a couple of years, large brands were hesitant to use social media channels. Fast forward to today, and that has really reversed itself,” Lipsman said. “Almost 3 out of every 10 ads or so are on Facebook.”

That’s the kind of message Facebook wants to send to Wall Street as it prepares to file papers this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering. The company is looking to raise as much as $10 billion in an offering that could make Facebook worth as much as $100 billion.

Facebook also collects revenue from its virtual payment system called Facebook credit.  And the company takes a 30% cut of revenue generated by game developers on its site.Facebook’s total revenue in 2011 was about $4.3 billion, according to estimates from research firm EMarketer.

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-- Jessica Guynn

Photo: Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, is credited with driving the company’s online advertising business. Credit: Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg

Nokia loses $1.38 billion in Q4, sells 1 million Windows Phones

Nokia Lumia 800

Nokia's multibillion-dollar bet on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is still in its early stages, but so far the bet is a financially losing one. Though, there are glimmers of hope.

The Finnish phone-maker reported a $1.38-billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2011 on Thursday, but the company also said that it has sold "well over 1 million Lumia devices to date."

While the Lumia sales so far don't come close to challenging heavyweights such as Apple's iPhone, which sold about 37 million units in the same three-month period, the consumer uptake is notable considering that the Lumias aren't sold in nearly as many markets as rival phones from Apple, Samsung and HTC.

The Lumia line is Nokia's first range of handsets running on the Windows Phone software, and since the series debut in October, Nokia has released just two phones -- the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 -- to Europe, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

Only the Lumia 710 is currently available in the U.S. The newly announced Lumia 900, a phone designed specifically for the U.S. market, is expected to hit stores as early as March. Nokia has yet to launch its Lumia phones in China or Latin America, though the company said in a statement that would happen sometime in the first six months of the year.

Overall Nokia sales fell 21% in the last three months of the year, while smartphone shipments fell 31% from a year ago. Much of Nokia's smartphone dip is attributable to the decline in popularity of phones running the company's Symbian and MeeGo operating systems as consumers have turned to Google's Android platform and the iPhone. When Nokia agreed to take on Windows Phone, it stated that it would abandon Symbian and MeeGo as well.

The company's $1.38-billion fourth quarter loss follows a profit of about $980 million a year earlier.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

twitter.com/nateog

Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg

Nokia's Lumia 900 Windows Phone may launch at $99

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Nokia's eagerly awaited Lumia 900 might undercut rival flagship phones on price in a big way, according to new reports Wednesday.

How big? Well, the tech sites BGR and CNet are reporting that an unnamed "trusted source" has told them that the Lumia 900 will sell for about $99 on a two-year data plan and launch March 18.

If the rumor is true, the AT&T-exclusive smartphone would come in at about half the price of the entry-level Apple iPhone 4S and even less than half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. AT&T officials declined to comment on the reports.

That's a pretty good price considering the hardware the Lumia 900 offers (I was expecting a price of about $200 but no lower than about $150).

The Lumia 900 -- which I got a bit of hands-on time with at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month -- features 4.3-inch touch screen with a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels.

The unique-looking new Nokia will also be available with either cyan or black bodies, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.

An 8-megapixel  camera that can shoot up to 720p video is on back, while a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera sits above the Lumia 900's display.

So, do you think $99 is a fair price for the Lumia 900? Would $199 have been a better price? Feel free to sound off in the comments and check out our hands-on video with the Lumia 900 from CES below.

RELATED:

Lumia 710, Nokia's first U.S. Windows Phone -- review

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CES 2012: Lumia 900, Nokia's first 4G LTE Windows Phone, debuts [Photos and Video]

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the middle and an Apple iPhone 4S in the rear. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Microsoft releases Hotmail app for Amazon's Kindle Fire

Hotmail for Kindle Fire app listed in Amazon's Appstore for Andoird

Microsoft's Hotmail service now has a Kindle Fire app.

OK, this may not be as exciting as Google releasing a Gmail app for Apple's iPhone, and there is still no native Gmail app for the Fire. But the Hotmail app for the Fire should be a worthwhile release for many owners of Amazon's popular 7-inch tablet due to the addition of Exchange Active Sync.

Unlike Amazon's included email app on the FIre, which merely downloads your messages via POP3, Microsoft's Hotmail app will synch emails, contacts, folders and subfolders, said David Law, Microsoft's director of Hotmail product management, in a blog post.

While the free Hotmail app for the Fire is technically an Android app, the version for Amazon's tablet is different from the standard Hotmail Android app used by more than 3 million people, Law said.

The differences between the Fire Hotmail app and the standard Android Hotmail app have to do with the changes Amazon made to Android to create the Fire-specific operating system it runs on its tablet, which as we've noted before is unlike any other version of Android out there.

"Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well," Law said. "Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we're excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire."

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screen shot of the Hotmail app listing in Amazon's Appstore for Android. Credit: Microsoft / Amazon

Samsung: No, we're not interested in buying RIM

Research In Motion BlackBerry

Just one day after Research In Motion shares received a boost off news that Samsung Electronics might be interested in buying the struggling smartphone and tablet maker, Samsung came out on Wednesday and said the rumored deal isn't happening.

Samsung, the second-largest cellphone producer on the planet behind Nokia, said it is not considering taking over RIM and that it has "never" been interested in buying the BlackBerry maker, according to a Bloomberg report.

James Chung, a Samsung spokesman, told the news outlet that the Korean company and RIM, based in Canada, haven't had any contact regarding a purchase deal.

Chung also told Bloomberg that Samsung isn't interested in the rumored software licensing deals that RIM has been reportedly exploring as well.

On Tuesday, stock in RIM rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share after the tech news site BGR ran a story, citing unnamed sources, stating that Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM.

Of course, Samsung hasn't been the only company that has been rumored to be interested in buying RIM. Among the other potential suitors with speculated interest in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon. RIM shares jumped 10% in December on news of possible takeover interest from Microsoft and Amazon.

This also isn't the first time that Samsung has come out and denied rumors of its interest in a smartphone property. Last September, Samsung declared its lack of interest in buying the WebOS operating system from Hewlett-Packard.

After months of trying to figure out what to do with WebOS, HP eventually decided to retain ownership, open-source the software and then move forward on developing new tablets (but no new smartphones) running the operating system.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: BlackBerry Messenger on a BlackBerry smartphone from Research In Motion. Samsung announced Wednesday that will not purchase BlackBerry maker RIM. Credit: Oliver Lang / Associated Press

Samsung reportedly 'front runner' in RIM purchase

Photo: Research In Motion's Senior Manager of Brand Marketing, Jeff Gadway discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10, 2012. Credit: Eric Reed/AP Images for BlackBerry

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is again at the center of buyout rumors and this time the speculated buyer is consumer electronics giant Samsung.

Among other possible suitors believed to be interested in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon, which sent shares in the smartphone and tablet maker up as much as 10% in December when the rumor mill was churning.

On Tuesday, after the website BGR published a story that stated Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM, stock in the Canadian company rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share.

"Research In Motion is currently weighing every single option it can think of in an effort to reverse a negative trend that is approaching a boiling point for investors," BGR said. "Reports that RIM is currently in talks to license its software to other vendors are accurate according to our trusted sources, though we have been told that RIM is most likely leaning toward an outright sale of one or more divisions, or even the whole company."

RIM officials were unavailable to comment on the BGR report on Tuesday.

The negative trend mentioned by BGR is a well-documented slide at RIM that didn't relent in 2011. In December, RIM recorded a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory after the tablet failed to live up to sales expectations since its launch in April. Every model of the PlayBook was also cut to $299 in a move to entice consumers.

With sales of the PlayBook slow, no wireless carriers have stepped up to offer a 3G or 4G version of the BlackBerry tablet as RIM had originally planned. 

RIM also dealt with multiple product delays, employee layoffs, service outages, contracting market share, disappointing earnings results and declining stock prices in 2011.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: Research In Motion's senior manager of brand marketing, Jeff Gadway, discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10. Credit: Eric Reed / AP Images for BlackBerry

Skype coming soon to Windows Phone, later to Xbox Live

Skype on an Android phone

Skype can be used to make voice and video calls over the Web using PCs, a number of TVs and Blu-Ray players, Facebook and via smartphone apps found on BlackBerrys, Androids, iPhones and iPads.

Yet, despite Microsoft buying Skype at a price of $8.5-billion in October, you still can't make a Skype call on a Windows Phone handset. However, that will change soon, Skype and Microsoft said in a YouTube video produced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week.

If you're feeling a bit skeptical, you're likely not alone. Skype has been promising a Windows Phone app since April of last year. But a higher level of integration between Skype and its new owner Microsoft is inevitable, if not late.

Rick Osterloh, Skype's vice president of product, said in the company's CES video that the online calling service is working on apps for not only Windows Phone, but also for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console and the in-development Windows 8 operating system.

Osterloh also said that Skype is on an upswing of growth with the service recently passing 200 million monthly users who use more than 1 billion minutes a day. Also on the way is group-calling with up to 10 people on a single call, he said.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+
Twitter.com/nateog

Image: A screenshot of a demonstration video of Skype for Android on a Samsung Nexus S smartphone. Credit: Skype

Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone is free at Wal-Mart with contract

Nokia Lumia 710

The Lumia 710, Nokia's first Windows Phone to hit the U.S., barely went on sale on Jan. 11 and already Wal-Mart is undercutting other retailers by giving the new phone away for free on a two-year contract.

T-Mobile USA, which launched the phone, sells the Lumia 710 for $49.99 on a two-year data plan, as do other retailers such as Best Buy. The price drop by Wal-Mart is a fast one and it's unclear if other retailers or T-Mobile itself will follow suit.

But if we do see more price drops on the Lumia 710, they will probably be motivated in part by the pending arrival of the new Lumia 900 at AT&T, which is rumored for sometime in March. An official release date and price haven't yet been disclosed for the Lumia 900.

The Lumia 900, which made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, has  a 4.3-inch display and a unique polycarbonate body.

But while the 900 packs a larger screen and a bit more style, it and the 710 are very similar on the inside, with both phones running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango on a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor and 512-megabytes of RAM.

The Lumia 710 has 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, while the Lumia 900 has 16 gigabytes. And the Lumia 710 features a 5-megapixel camera with a single-LED flash, while the Lumia 900 has an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash.

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles on Google+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: The Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone from T-Mobile USA. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles TImes

CES 2012: Hands-on with Alan Wake's American Nightmare on Xbox 360 [Video]

The future of video games is increasingly shifting from discs to downloads over Internet-connected consoles, phones, tablets and PCs.

Microsoft Corp. is aware of this trend as much as any other player in the gaming industry and rolls out multiple promotions a year to bring attention to games available for download through its Xbox Live Arcade storefront on the Xbox 360 console. And next up for Microsoft is the Xbox Live Arcade House Party, which starts Feb. 15 and includes the launch of one game a week for four weeks. 

At the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, I went hands-on with Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which will be the first game to roll out in the month-long promotion.

AW American Nightmare - Arcade Cemetary

Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a sequel to the on-disc game Alan Wake, which was released in 2010 to critical acclaim for story-driven game play that mixed a psychological thriller plotline with the action of a third-person shooter.

The game, which focused on a fictional fiction writer named Alan Wake and his quest to solve the mystery of his wife's disappearance in a small Washington town, was also praised for its inventive use of lighting, with Wake spending a lot of time running around in dark forests at night with a flashlight and a gun.

In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, the game's hero finds himself in the deserts of Arizona. The impressive lighting effects are back and shooting mechanics are solid. I tried my hand at the new title's Fight 'til Dawn survival mode, which pits players in a 10-minute scene with wave after wave of enemies attacking. (You can check out our hands-on with the new game above.)

The game play was intense and challenging, and it should be a satisfying experience for fans of the original Alan Wake game as well as those of shooting games such as Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil and the Call of Duty series' zombie modes.

Alan Wake's American Nightmare will also have a campaign of about four to five hours, depending on how much time a player spends exploring and digging into the game's story, said Oskari Hakinnen, a spokesman for Remedy Entertainment Ltd., the developer of the series.

For those who haven't played the original Alan Wake, there's no need to fret. Hakinnen said that the sequel will pick up where the first title left off story-wise, but it was written in a way that won't confuse those who are new to the world of Alan Wake. Pricing for the game hasn't yet been disclosed.

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