Microsoft Curbs Cortana in Windows 10 In 2017

Microsoft on Thursday announced that it was restricting its Cortana digital assistant to operating with the Edge browser and Bing search engine in Windows 10. “As Windows 10 has grown in adoption and usage, we have seen some software programs circumvent [its] design and redirect you to search providers that were not designed to work with Cortana,” said Ryan Gavin, Microsoft’s general manager of search and Cortana. “The result is a compromised experience that is less reliable and predictable,” he added. “The continuity of these types of task completion scenarios…

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Gadget Ogling: Levitating Smart Things, Making WiFi-Perfect Wine

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that is ready to take a breather, after finally upgrading to Windows 10, to peruse the latest announcements in the world of gadgets. On our Start menu this time around are levitating smartwatch and smartphone chargers, a connected wine and cider maker, and a wearable with a safety focus. As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings reflect only how much I’d like to actually try each item. Walking in the Air A pair of Kickstarter projects plan to place your…

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Gadget Ogling: Floating Speakers, Neckbrace Audio

Welcome, dear friends, to another incarnation of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that occasionally peels its eyes from Super Mario Run to cast its gaze over the latest gadget announcements. In the Mushroom Kingdom this time around are a levitating speaker, a speaker to hang around your neck, and an adorable coffee machine. As ever, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each item with my own hands, tired as they may be from tearing apart wrapping paper. Phonically Flying LG features…

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Fitbit Pulls Pebble From Rock, Hard Place In 2017

Fitbit on Wednesday announced an acquisition deal with smartwatch maker Pebble. The company clearly has been struggling, having laid off 25 percent of its staff earlier this year, when CEO Eric Migicovsky acknowledged that money was tight. “Fitbit is acquiring certain assets of Pebble, including key personnel and intellectual property specific to software and firmware development,” a Fitbit spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Paula Conhain. “The majority of Pebble employees in the software engineering function, as well select employees in other functions, will join…

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Apple Brings Back That 4-Inch Feeling Old Is Gold

Apple on Monday announced a pair of new products in old sizes — the 4-inch iPhone SE and the 9.7-inch iPad Pro — banking on user preferences for the familiar form factors to lessen their hesitancy to upgrade. Although Apple’s hour-long “Loop You In” event was short on surprises, it was slimmer on filler as well. Among the notable extras, Apple announced a price cut bringing the Apple Watch to US$300, along with a selection of new bands. It also announced support for Apple TV folders and the release of…

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The Ultimate Party Photo Printer For Your iPhone

iPhoneography may be fastest and easiest entrĂ©e into photography for most consumers, but it lacks one critical element: no instant prints. Sure, you can pass around your iPhone to show off pictures of the kids or your cat, or even rely one those cute portable printers. But those solutions are inherently inconvenient. Prynt Pocket ($150, available on Amazon, a follow up to the tiny, lightweight Prynt Case aspires to be the modern-day Polaroid combo camera and printer, but with a twist.   Essentially a portable printer that works through your…

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Apple AirPods Finally Good to Go On Hand

Apple’s new wireless AirPods are finally available. The company on Tuesday began taking orders for AirPods at its online store, and said it would start delivering the US$159 earphones to customers, Apple Stores, resellers and carriers next week. At the iPhone 7 launch in September, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller said the AirPods would be available in October, but the company missed that target time frame due to unexplained delays. Missing the deadline for release of any hot product is bad news for a company, but…

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Samsung’s Chromebook Pro Earns Respect 2017

Some early reviewers of the Samsung Chromebook Pro characterized it as a “MacBook killer,” but others were more restrained in their enthusiasm. Jointly developed with Google and first demoed at CES 2017, the Chromebook Pro is slated for release next month. Samsung’s Chromebooks basically are lightweight productivity tools that rely heavily on access to cloud-based resources. They have gained popularity in the enterprise for use with remote workers and in educational settings as entry-level computing tools. However, they “are no Mac killers,” said Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner.…

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Gadget Ogling: Note-Taker Triumphs, Classic Nokia Returns, and Audio Thrills 2017

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that sometimes takes a break from figuring out why people are investing in an ephemeral content company losing half a billion dollars a year and suffering slowing user growth to pore over the latest gadget announcements. This time around, we take a look at an automated transcription device, the return of a classic cellphone, and Bang and Olufsen’s latest wireless speaker. As ever, these are not reviews — a difficult prospect when I’ve yet to see any of these items in person,…

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Nokia 3310 Pushes Nostalgia Buttons 2017

HMD Global, owner of the Nokia phone brand, on Sunday reintroduced the classic 3310 feature phone at the Mobile World Congress, along with a line of brand new Nokia smartphones that run on the Android platform. The relaunch of the 3310 is the reimagination of one of the world’s best-selling feature phones as a sleek, lightweight device that features 22 hours of talk time and an entire month of standby time. Its average retail price will be just 49 euros (about US$52). The phone will come in four colors: warm…

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Apple Unveils Budget-Friendly iPad, Dresses iPhone in Red 2017

Apple on Tuesday announced an iPad update, a red iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, and a new video-editing app for iOS. The iPad upgrade has a 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536-pixel Retina display with 264 pixels per inch, and Apple’s A9 64-bit processor. The unit will come in silver, gold and space gray with a starting price of US$329 for 32 gigabytes of storage and WiFi-only support. It will cost $459 for a 32-GB unit with WiFi and cellular support. As with prior models, the battery life for the new iPad…

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Galaxy S8 vs. iPhone 8: Winning Has Little to Do With Phones 2017

The new Samsung Galaxy S8 has launched, and its target of choice is the as yet unlaunched Apple iPhone 8 Anniversary Edition. These phones are critical for both companies. Apple survives largely off the iPhone today, and Samsung is trying to recover both from its burning phone problem and from its top executive being arrested on bribery charges. Neither firm can afford a big loss to the other, and Samsung just came out of the gate with one hell of an opening salvo. A big difference is that Apple can…

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Bixby Will Be Seen but Not Heard When Galaxy S8 Launches 2017

Samsung on Wednesday said that Bixby Voice will not be operational when its Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones hit the market. Some Bixby features — Vision, Home and Reminder — will be active when the phones become available on April 21, Samsung said, but the Bixby Voice capability won’t show up until later this spring. The delay may be due to a weakness in Bixby’s English language chops, according to some reports. Its voice recognition in English apparently lags its Korean language capabilities substantially. That mismatch might be worrisome to…

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BlackBerry KEYone’s Success Hinges on Physical Keyboard Longing 2017

The first reviews of the new KEYone BlackBerry handset appeared this week, and the early consensus is that this device will appeal to BlackBerry fans who want its familiar physical QWERTY keyboard coupled with the functionality of Google’s Android operating system. This handset technically is not a true BlackBerry — it is the first device from TCL since it entered a licensing agreement with BlackBerry Limited, formerly Research In Motion, the maker of the original BlackBerry handsets. TCL’s license agreement covers the name and hardware patents, including the QWERTY keyboard.…

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Microsoft’s Mixer Could Shake Up the Streaming Game 2017

Microsoft on Thursday announced Mixer, a rebranded version of its game-streaming service previously known as “Beam.” In addition to the name change, the service will include a number of new features designed to attract more gamers. The added features will unlock new possibilities for social streaming, while also helping viewers find specific content across the service, according to Microsoft. New co-streaming functionality will allow four PC streamers to combine their respective broadcasts into a single split-screen stream. This feature soon will roll out to Xbox gamers as well. In addition,…

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PCs Shine Again, but How Long

Just when PCs looked to be dying a slow, painful death, they became interesting again. As expected, this week’s news coming from Computex in Taiwan is flush with new PCs and PC technologies, but is it enough to reinvigorate a market that has faced declining sales since 2011? The market peaked at just over 365 million units annually, and fell to 269 million units last year, according to Gartner. So, why all the excitement? The excitement is emerging from both the technology driving PCs and the applications leveraging the processing…

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