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As hard as it is to believe, Microsoft has until now never put out a 3G/4G Surface tablet. But we knew one would come eventually: the company said it was working on an LTE-enabled Surface 2 and indeed, the thing recently surfaced (har) in FCC documents. Now it’s finally here: Microsoft just announced that the LTE Surface 2 will go on sale tomorrow, and will be compatible on AT&T’s 4G network here in the US. (Fun fact: its official name is literally “Surface 2 (AT&T 4G LTE)”.) All told, it’ll sell for $679 with 64GB of built-in storage. That’s a $130 premium over the 64GB WiFi-only model which, if you’re paying attention, is the same premium you’d pay for a cellular iPad over a WiFi one (it’s worth noting, however, that the 4G Surface 2 is considerably less expensive).

Happily, the Surface 2 comes free of any contractual agreements. The big catch, of course, is that you’ll need an AT&T micro-SIM: the tablet supports LTE bands 4, 7 and 17, along with 3G UTMS (bands 1, 2 and 5) and regular old GSM (800/900/1800/1900MHz). In theory, that also means you should be able to get away with using a T-Mobile SIM, since T-Mobile also uses LTE 4 and 1900MHz 3G. T-Mo isn’t officially supported, though, so don’t expect anything in the way of possible bug fixes or performance enhancements. Either way, what’s nice is that even with the LTE, the tablet promises the same battery life (up to 10 hours) and basically weighs the same as it did before.

In any case, you can find the Surface 2 with LTE tomorrow at Microsoft Stores, MicrosoftStore.com and Best Buy (but not AT&T stores, oddly). Oh, and all those promotions Microsoft was offering back when the Surface 2 first launched? They still apply five months later on this LTE version. That means you can expect 200GB of free OneDrive storage for two years and a year of unlimited Skype WiFi calling and landline calls.

Microsoft’s next big headache: The Google Chromebook

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 16 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Chromebooks, Google’s cheap, modestly powered laptops, make up just a tiny percentage of notebook sales. But Microsoft is freaking out about them.

Late last year, Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) launched a seemingly random, preemptive campaign against Chromebooks in a series of TV commercials. The ads attacked Chromebooks’ lack of functionality and compatibility compared to Windows.

At the time, the ads seemed unnecessary: About 90% of the world’s PCs run Windows. But fast forward six months, and it’s becoming clearer why Microsoft is trying to nip this threat in the bud.

An NPD report indicated that Chromebooks accounted for 21% of commercial U.S. notebook sales last year, though that only included sales in business and education spaces.Lenovo (LNVGF) and HP (HPQ, Fortune 500), two of the biggest PC makers, have added Chromebooks to their laptop lineups over the past year, joining Samsung (SSNLF) and Acer. Google’s (GOOG, Fortune 500) Chrome OS itself continues to grow more and more functional by the day.

And at the beginning of March, Samsung released its 13-inch Chromebook 2, which aspires to be more than just an entry-level, bargain laptop. Equipped with a 1080p high-definition display and Samsung’s top mobile processor, Samsung is confident its Chromebook can go toe-to-toe with a comparable Intel (INTC, Fortune 500)-powered device.

That said, overall market share for Chromebooks is still small. Chromebook sales for 2013 represented somewhere around 1% of total global notebook sales last year, according to Nomura. But they’re obviously catching on in the United States, and some analysts, including Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund, only expect that figure to grow.

Since the PC industry’s growth has gone flatter than a map drawn in the Dark Ages, any faint trace of momentum is promising — or terrifying, if you’re Microsoft.

Samsung says consumers are starting to embrace and understand Chromebooks, which essentially only run the Web. The company says it has noticed a drop-off in retail returns of Chromebooks, which Samsung attributes to Google’s improving Chrome OS software and the Chromebook hardware being more usable for the average person.

But there’s a larger shift at play as well. Smartphones and tablets are becoming more powerful, and the PC is becoming less important for our daily needs. Outside of what we do at work, most of what we actually need a laptop for is what a Chromebook is limited to: Web browsing.

We are fast approaching a reality where the Internet is omnipresent and devices use the cloud — and not USB cables — to talk to one another. Even the few offline tasks — word processing, spreadsheets, and media consumption — can be carried out on a Chromebook nearly as well as on a PC.

Chromebooks haven’t become objectively better than Windows PCs, and they’re not selling by the truckload. But Chromebooks are ready for mainstream adoption. They’re starting to make many of us realize how non-essential a $1000 laptop is becoming. And they can compete with most of the cheaper laptops.

Windows Phone owners have their choice of activity tracking apps, but few of those apps will tell you how to remain healthy after you’ve taken off your running shoes. It’s a good thing that Microsoft has released a beta of Bing Health & Fitness for Windows Phone, then. The software uses GPS to quantify your biking and running like many of its peers, but it also provides health advice; much like the Windows 8 app, you’ll find a diet tracker, exercise instructions and a symptom research tool. Your info will also sync across all your Windows-based gear. Those eager to slim down and shape up just have to swing by the Windows Phone Store to get started.

First Xbox One feature update goes live

Posted by Nuttapon_S On February - 15 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Microsoft’s spring update for the Xbox One is here! (Cue triumphant trumpets.) It’s a few days later than anticipated but, as they say, better late than never. The first major update for the console packs a host of improvements, including better Kinect voice recognition, improved all-round stability, and some key fixes to the dashboard — such as onscreen meters for the controller’s battery and free HDD space (check after the break for a complete list). You’ll also be able to plug a USB keyboard in, which should make web browsing and searching a whole lot less painful. The update is rolling out to customers during “off-peak” hours in their local time zones. Or as the ever eloquent Larry Hryb put it, “never fear you’ll see it sometime over the weekend.” If you’re taking advantage of Xbox’s Instant On feature, the console will check for an update next time you turn it off.

New/updated Features

  • Update to My Game & Apps to allow sorting of games and application lists, and separate queue lists for games, applications and installs
  • Ability to delete game and application save data
  • Improved installation and DLC management
  • Addition of the controller battery power indicator
  • Improved UI for accessing friends, achievements, messages, and party chat
  • Game DVR app to be included in the Xbox OneGuide as an app channel
  • Update to the boot progress indicators for system update
  • Improve consistency of UX for update & install progress
  • Separate game, application, and install queue lists
  • Addition of USB keyboard support

Stability and performance update

  • Improved NAT detection
  • Network Troubleshooter improvements
  • Blu-ray quality improvements
  • Significant performance and stability improvements

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