Project Spartan First Impressions – A Great First Step

Like many Windows Insiders yesterday, I spent a good chunk of my evening downloading and installing Build 10049, the latest update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview and the first to include Project Spartan.  For those of you who are not familiar with what Project Spartan is exactly, it is the new browser experience that is coming in Windows 10 and you can read my summary of what it is in this post from yesterday.

The main focus of Build 10049 was Project Spartan so naturally I have focused most of my time in testing up the build in this new browser.  My first impressions are positive and I certainly like what I’m seeing.  It is a much cleaner viewing experience to be certain but there are other things that just make sense in Spartan.  I like where this is going and I think once Microsoft has it completed it will be a fantastic experience for everyone.

Comparing The Surface 3 to The iPad Air 2

Microsoft’s announcement today of the Surface 3 has been by all indications well received.  It is certainly at a great price point at the entry level and given it is running full Windows 8.1 (with an upgrade to Windows 10 later), gone are the days of RT and not being real clear where things were going with it.

I thought it would be interesting to do a comparison of the new Surface 3 to that of the Apple iPad Air 2 because there are a few rumbles on Twitter about the $499 entry price being too expensive.  I think when you look at it and compare it to what is arguably the most popular tablet out there, the iPad Air 2, you find that the Surface 3 makes a lot of sense both from a specification and price perspective.

Microsoft Announces the Surface 3, A Low Cost Surface Option

Every since the Surface 2 faded into the digital sunset there has been a clamoring for a low cost Surface option.  Many thought that this would be a Surface Mini which by all indications was pulled at the last minute.  Today however the waiting seems to be over.  Microsoft has just announced the all new Surface 3, a low cost option in the Surface family starting at only $499, a full $300 less than the entry level Surface Pro 3.  The new Surface 3 is available for pre-order now and will ship on May 5th.  The key difference between the Surface 3 and the older Surface 2 is that the former runs Windows 8.1, full version.  This is not an RT build.  Further, you will get upgraded to Windows 10 for free when it is released later this summer.

Pre-Order Microsoft Surface 3 – Starting at $499

Viber For Windows Phone Update Brings Photo Viewing A Swipe Away

For those of you who are use Viber as your text and messaging app, there is an update today that makes photo sharing a little bit easier.  The updated version of Viber for Windows Phone brings two new features with the biggest one being the ability to easily view all photos in a chat by Swiping in a chat session.  It is a quick way to go find that photo from a few days ago without having to do long scrolls back up the message feed.  The update, version 4.5 for those keeping score at home, is available now in the Windows Phone store.

If you aren’t familiar with Viber, it is a cross platform text, messaging, video sharing and photo sharing app.  If you are thinking it sounds a lot like Skype, you would be correct.

Viber for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now

What Exactly is Project Spartan – And What is it Not?

With the release of the Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 10049, we get our first public glimpse of Project Spartan, the all new browser that will be coming in Windows 10.  Project Spartan has been talked about and teased since January but it has taken them until now to get a build of it that they felt was stable enough to use.  In the life of the Internet though, two plus months is a long time so I thought I would give everyone a refresher of what Project Spartan is exactly and equally as important, what it is not.

The is not part of the list is actually small.  Project Spartan is not killing Internet Explorer.  In fact, Windows 10 will ship with Internet Explorer and Project Spartan both.  However, IE will essentially be there for legacy apps and pages only with the focus and future development on Spartan.  Paul Thurrott over on his site has a great write-up on the Microsoft browser strategy and it is well worth the read.

Microsoft Issues Windows 10 Build 10049 with Project Spartan To Fast Ring Windows Insiders

It took nearly two months for the Windows 10 Technical Preview to be updated after the initial release but the Fast Ring is apparently very fast right now.  Windows Insiders on the Fast Ring of Windows 10 have now had Build 10049 pushed out to them.  This update has a lot of fixes but it also is the first release with the all new singing-and-dancing Project Spartan web experience.  The update will only be available to those who are on the Fast Ring so if you are wanting to see Project Spartan and are on the Slow Ring, you will have to wait or move to the Fast Ring.

Also, if you are a developer and using Visual Studio 2015 Preview, you should not upgrade to this build.  More on why after the break.

Track Your Exercise and Diet With The MSN Health & Fitness App and a SensorCore Enabled Lumia

If you follow me on Twitter or know me personally, you know that I’m a big user of Fitbit and MyFitnessPal.  In 2009 I weighed in at just under 300lbs while today I’m a healthy 195lbs and I credit my Fitbit (One and now a Flex) as well as MyFitnessPal as part of my success in losing the weight and keeping it off.  That said, there are some out there who do not necessarily want to have a wearable device to track their activities let alone have another app they have to go to so they can log their food and caloric intake.

With the introduction of the Lumia 1520, Nokia introduced SensorCore, a sensor and software application built into certain Lumia devices that will allow you to track activities such as walking and running.  Couple that with the free MSN Health & Fitness app for Windows Phone, you now have a way to keep track of your steps, runs, diet, and calories burned all in one app and you don’t have to wear any other devices other than your Lumia in your pocket – which is where it always is anyway, right?  Setting up your Lumia to use SensorCore is easy and it automatically configures MSN Health & Fitness so you can get to tracking things straight away.

Lumia 1520 No Longer Available At The Microsoft Store

The Lumia 1520 appears to be gone from the Microsoft Store online.  The last Windows Phone flagship device, which had been offered on AT&T, has been pulled from all pages on the site either under the AT&T section or the overall Windows Phone pages.  I discovered this doing some research for a post that I will be posting tomorrow and was surprised.  As of Friday afternoon the Lumia 1520 was still available directly from Microsoft on a contact from AT&T or without a contract for $549.99.  Now it appears the only flagship device remaining is the Lumia 830 which is $49 on contract or $399 off contract from AT&T.

Next Windows 10 for Phone Build Covers The Entire Range of Lumia Devices

According to a blog post by Gabe Aul, if you own a Lumia device you will likely have the next Windows 10 for Phone preview available on your device.  The news is certainly welcome to everyone who was disappointed by the limited number of devices the original preview was available for in January.  That seems to be resolved thanks to the partition stitching process that had to be resolved on many devices and within the next couple of weeks we should see a new build.

OneDrive for Windows Phone Sees a Minor Update

The OneDrive for Windows Phone app has seen another small update with the focus on the vague “bug fixes and performance improvements” category.  The update, version 4.9.0.0 for those keeping score at home, does not list any other updates or changes as part of the update.  I appreciate these types of updates are not super exciting but it is good to see developers, particularly Microsoft, continue to improve and tweak their apps.

If you have auto updates enabled on your Windows Phone then you have likely already had this update pushed to your phone.  If not, go to the Store, tap the Menu button (…) > Settings then scroll down to Check for Updates.  The update is tiny so it will only take a minute or so to install.

Remember, if you have not signed up for OneDrive, you can do so at this link.  Free accounts get 15GB of storage for free and if you have your Windows Phone automatically upload photos to the service, you get an additional 15GB for free.

OneDrive for Windows Phone – Free – Download Now