March 22, 2023

App Smart: Streaming for a Good Beat That’s Just to Your Taste

Since then, the music landscape has undergone a sea change. But discovering music in a similar way is still possible via the latest and fast-evolving trend in digital music: streaming.

Perhaps the best-known streaming music app is Spotify. This app lets you listen to any of your favorite tracks at will, and it is also a digital radio that streams new music. Its interface is simple, bordering on spartan: it has a main screen where you control the music you are hearing, and a menu screen that lets you access different sections of the app and adjust settings.

To listen to a track you simply choose “Search” and type the artist’s name or a word from the track’s title. Spotify then lists the results by artist, album and song title. A more interesting way to use the app, however, is to select the “Discover” option. This reveals a long graphics-heavy list containing all sorts of different music.

Some of this will be familiar (right now, my app is telling me “You’ve been listening to a lot of Daft Punk lately” and recommends one of their albums), some of it will be new. These tracks include new releases, and music that is popular or is being listened to by nearby Spotify users.

There’s also a “Radio” option that has “stations” that stream either a particular band’s music, or genres of your choice, from Alternative to Trance. The app has straightforward controls and will show you album art and even band biographies.

Spotify has changed how I listen to music. But while the app is free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8, using it may cost you. In the United States, you can listen to the app’s radio stations free, but to listen to specific tracks you’ll have to subscribe for $10 a month.

For a different experience, you might try Rhapsody (which in some places overseas goes under the Napster brand). As in Spotify, you can search for music you want to hear, or discover new music through a few different routes. For example, the Browse section breaks music into genres; inside each genre’s page you can choose from new releases or popular tracks.

Alternatively, you can find new music through Rhapsody’s home page, which offers access to featured music, new releases and popular tracks. There are also Playlists, which are a little like Spotify’s stations. These lists have a regularly updated selection of music that will stream to you. There are extras like album reviews, so you can learn more about the artist you’re listening to.

Rhapsody’s interface is graphically richer and feels easier to navigate than Spotify’s, thanks to features like its ever-present icon bar. Bu you may find that Rhapsody’s graphics and many settings get in the way of your listening experience. It’s free to download on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8, but you’ll have to pay $10 a month for unlimited music streaming. was one of the first players that streamed music over the Internet, and now it’s available as an app. Instead of concentrating on giving you access to new music, a bit like traditional radio, tries to recommend new music based on the tracks you already listen to. In fact, it monitors music that you play through your mobile device, and keeps a list of it in your profile — a trick it calls “scrobbling.”

The scrobbled list can be shared online and is used to recommend lists of music similar to the kind you already like. The data comes from other users’ lists. is powerful and entertaining, but its interface is more basic than its peers’ and it doesn’t quite have the same range of music discovery options. And, though the app is free on iOS, Android and Windows Phone 8, to listen to the recommended lists you have to pay $3 a month.

Finally, there’s SoundCloud, a free app for iOS and Android that offers a different kind of streaming music. Where Spotify is like having radio on your phone, SoundCloud is more about hearing new music shared by indie artists via a social network. It has a wonderfully simple interface and it’s fun to use — you can upload your own music and share that too. Just don’t expect to find mainstream rock bands on this app.

Hopefully, you’ll find tons of new music to listen to via these apps, but remember there are other options. The Pandora app is well known and definitely worth trying. Apple is also poised to introduce iTunes Radio — a free service with advertisements. Streaming music is a fast-changing scene, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for special offers.

Quick Call

Telenav Scout, a successful GPS navigation app that’s done well on Android and iOS, has finally hit Windows Phone 8 devices. The core app is free, but advanced features like red light alerts will cost you $25 a year.

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State of the Art: The Lumia 1020, a Great Camera Grafted to an Oddball Phone

The mediocrity of cellphone pictures hasn’t stopped us from hitting our phone’s shutter button, of course. Every year, we take billions of photos with our phones, often choosing them over powerful cameras to record even important life events. The cellphone’s handiness seems to excuse a long list of photographic disappointments: feeble sensors, no zoom, no real flash, no ability to freeze action and heartbreaking low-light graininess.

Well, good news: Little by little, the world’s electronics companies are finally turning their attention to this problem. Some of them try to graft cellphones onto cameras; others try to jam real cameras onto cellphones.

Nokia has taken the latter approach with its new Lumia 1020 cellphone ($300 with a two-year ATT contract, $660 without). It’s a huge Windows Phone 8 phone with an absolutely amazing camera.

Now, Nokia says that this phone has a 41-megapixel camera. But if you think megapixels equal picture quality, you’ll be sorely disappointed, both in this camera and any other.

The megapixel count really means very little. There have been 2-megapixel cameras that took wonderful photos, and 20-megapixel cameras that took terrible ones. A high megapixel count is primarily a marketing gimmick.

And in any case, any picture you send wirelessly from this phone — by e-mail, text message, Facebook, Twitter or whatever — is actually a five-megapixel shot. Which, again, doesn’t mean anything good or bad; five is plenty even for a big printout. (The only way to get the full-resolution originals off the phone is to connect the phone to a Mac or PC with a USB cable.)

The high megapixel count is useful in exactly one situation: when you want to crop out much of the scene. If you’re starting with 41 megapixels, you can throw away a lot of a photo and still have enough resolution for a big print. The phone’s Pro Cam app is made for just that: it lets you create photos from a piece of a larger scene.

In total, the 41-megapixel business is a lot of hot air. What Nokia should really be bubbling about instead is the superiority of this camera’s sensor — its digital film. Compared with the sensors in most phones, this one is huge and especially light sensitive.

You’ve never seen, or even contemplated, photos this good from a phone. They really are spectacular. (See for yourself in the slide show that accompanies this column online.)

Most of the time, the photos are just as good as what you’d get from a $300 pocket camera (you know, the kind that doesn’t also make phone calls). Often, they’re better. The low-light shots seem like they came from some kind of “Mission: Impossible” spy gear. And if the subject is close to the lens, the background melts into a delicious blurriness, just as in professional portraits.

Sometimes, though, the photos are worse. Shutter lag (a delay after you press the shutter button) is a problem. There can be distortion at the outer edges of the frame. Some photos are a little “soft.”

Furthermore, even this cameraphone doesn’t have a true zoom; a three-inch telescoping lens would probably be uncomfortable in your palm when you’re on a call. Instead, it has a 3X digital zoom: slide your finger up the screen to magnify the scene. You’re not really zooming at all, of course — just cropping into a smaller area — but it works well enough.

On most cameras, what you get by way of a flash is really just an LED lamp that momentarily lights up for short-range illumination. On this one, you get an actual flash — a mini strobe that works much better. Like most Windows Phone devices, this one has a physical shutter button on the edge, too, so it feels like you’re holding a real camera. (For $80, you can buy a “camera grip” that adds an extra battery, a more convenient handle and a tripod socket.)

The 1020 also has a superb image stabilizer that comes in handy for videos. This phone’s videos really are something: stable, bright, 1080p high definition with crisp stereo sound.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: August 14, 2013

An earlier version of this article misidentified an app for the Lumia 1020 phone that allows the creation of photos from a piece of a larger scene. It is Pro Cam, not Smart Cam. The article also included one app incorrectly in a listing of those missing from the phone. There is indeed a Dropbox app.

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From Apple, an Overhaul for Mobile and the Mac

The company on Monday introduced a major redesign of iOS, its mobile software system, as well as upgrades for some of its Mac computers. It also unveiled a new online music service for its music player, iTunes. The company, under intense pressure from investors, introduced the new software and Macs on the first day of its annual conference for software developers.

Its stock has fallen to about $450 after peaking at about $700 in September. Some investors worry that the company’s growth is slowing because it has lost its way after the death of Mr. Jobs, its visionary leader. Apple’s vexation showed at the conference. After unveiling a major upgrade for a Mac computer, Phil Schiller, the company’s vice president for global marketing, offered a sarcastic response to those who have suggested that Apple could no longer innovate.

Charles Golvin, a technology analyst at Forrester Research, said Mr. Schiller’s remarks indicated that “they have a chip on their shoulder.” But Mr. Golvin said that Apple was adding improvements to battery life and other enhancements to software that people would actually find useful. “What customers are getting here is tremendous innovation under the cover,” he said.

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, called Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 7, the “biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the iPhone.”

The new mobile software system is the first made under the company’s lead hardware designer, Jony Ive. He was put in charge of software interface design after the company fired Scott Forstall, the former head of mobile software development, during a flurry of negative news reports surrounding Apple’s new mapping software.

The design in iOS 7 introduces thin typography, similar to Microsoft’s Windows Phone software, and a new color palette. The keyboard looks simple, with gray letters on flat, white backgrounds. Apple also removed textures that made some apps mimic real-life objects. The Calendar app has shed its faux leather; the Game Center app no longer has green felt; and the shelves in the iBookstore app are no longer wood-grained. And the home screen has an effect called parallax to make the app icons look as if they are popping out in 3-D.

“We have always thought of design of being so much more than the way something looks,” Mr. Ive said in a video demonstrating the operating system. “It’s the whole thing, the way something actually works on so many different levels.”

A new iOS feature, called Activation Lock, disables the iPhone even if a thief has turned it off or erased the data on the phone. Some police officers have called for a feature like this — a “remote kill switch” that renders the stolen phone useless and difficult to sell in the black market. The phone can be reactivated only after the user logs into it with the right Apple ID and password.“We think this is going to be a great theft deterrent,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president for software engineering.

In iOS 7, Apple also made improvements to Siri, the voice-controlled assistant of the iPhone, which has been ridiculed for its spottiness and ineptitude. The feature has new male and female voices that sound more realistic, and it responds to more commands, like “Play my last voice mail” or “Increase my screen brightness.” In 2014, iOS and Siri will be integrated into cars made by a dozen manufacturers, including Nissan, Kia, Honda and Toyota, said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president for Internet software and services.

Apple said iOS 7 would arrive in the fall. It will be a free update for iPhone and iPad owners.

The iPhone is driving Apple’s business, but the company is not lifting the gas pedal on its Macs. The company unveiled a major upgrade for the Mac Pro, its desktop computer for professionals, which it said would be assembled in the United States. The computer, scheduled for release this year, looks like a metal cylinder — a big change from the original rectangular tower. This was the first big upgrade for the desktop in three years.

It also unveiled new MacBook Airs, which it said would have enough battery life to last all day. The 11-inch version has nine hours of battery life and the 13-inch version has 12 hours, according to Mr. Schiller. Both versions start shipping immediately.

“You can watch the entire trilogy of ‘Lord of the Rings,’ ” on a single charge, Mr. Schiller said.

Apple also previewed its next Mac operating system, called OS X Mavericks. (The name is the first in a new theme, California, for Apple’s operating systems, after years of naming them for big cats. Mavericks is a reference to a major surf spot in California.) The new system includes some minor improvements, like the ability to tag documents to find them more easily. An urgent document can be tagged “Important,” for example, and can be quickly found in the operating system’s navigation window in a section labeled Important.

The hardware and software upgrades come at a crucial moment for in the competitive mobile market. One of Apple’s chief rivals, Samsung Electronics, has released several compelling smartphones and tablets over the last two years. And Google has gradually bulked up the Android software that runs on Samsung’s phones with powerful Internet services.

But Apple is, by some measures, still leading the mobile industry. The iPhone 5 is the best-selling smartphone in the world. Samsung Electronics sells the most phones over all because it sells multiple smartphones at different sizes and prices, whereas Apple has released one new iPhone a year.

Nick Bilton contributed reporting.

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Microsoft and Huawei to Unite to Sell Windows Smartphones in Africa

The phone, called the Huawei 4Afrika Windows Phone, will cost $150 and initially be sold in seven countries. Microsoft’s Windows Phone software is fourth among smartphone operating systems, with just 2 percent of the worldwide market in September, according to Canalys, a research firm in Reading, England.

“Microsoft is a small player in smartphones and it needs as many partners as it can get,” said Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys. “And Africa is one of Huawei’s strongest markets outside of China.”

Microsoft’s choice of Huawei, a leading maker of mobile networking equipment for African operators, does not detract from Microsoft’s commitment to Nokia, which is relying on Windows Phone software to lift its new line of smartphones and return the company to profitability.

Fernando de Sousa, the general manager for Microsoft Africa, said that in the next few months, Microsoft and Nokia planned to introduce two new Windows phones for the African market.

Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region for smartphones, with an average sales growth of 43 percent a year since 2000, according to the GSM Association, an industry trade group based in London.

In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 10 percent of the 445 million cellphone users have smartphones, but that is expected to increase rapidly as operators expand high-speed networks.

By 2017, most consumers in South Africa will be using smartphones, up from 20 percent last year, according to the GSM Association. In Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, the outlook for sustained growth is even greater, with smartphone penetration projected to reach just 30 percent by 2017.

The World Bank says that roughly a quarter of the one billion people on the continent are middle-class wage earners, the target group that Microsoft will try to reach with the Huawei phone, Mr. de Sousa said.

“Africans are generally quite conscious of brand, quality and image,” he said. “We are being very clear that we are not going to be building something cheap for this market. What we want to do is deliver real quality innovation at an affordable price. Compared to some smartphones that cost $600 here, this is very affordable.”

Microsoft plans to introduce the Huawei 4Afrika phone on Tuesday at events in Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Johannesburg and Abidjan, Ivory Coast. It will also be sold in Morocco and Angola.

The phone, which will run the Windows Phone 8 operating system, will be sold with applications designed for African consumers. Some apps give easy access to African soccer results. Others, like in Nigeria, focus on the country’s entertainment and film industries. An application developed in Egypt allows a woman who feels she is being harassed to alert the authorities to her location with one touch of her phone.

By targeting Africa, Microsoft is trying to build on momentum it recently gained through its partnership with Nokia. The company sold 4.4 million Lumia Windows smartphones in the fourth quarter of last year, up from 2.9 million the previous quarter.

In November, the Microsoft chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, said Microsoft had sold four times as many Windows phones at that point as it had a year earlier. A month later, Microsoft said sales of Windows phones over the holidays were five times those of a year ago.

Combined, Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems run about seven in 10 smartphones worldwide, with BlackBerry at 15 percent. But by 2016, Canalys expects Windows to overtake BlackBerry to become the No. 3 operating system, with a 15 percent share, compared with 5 percent for BlackBerry.

Microsoft is not alone in its focus on Africa. Samsung, the largest seller of smartphones and cellphones, has recently expanded the less expensive range of Galaxy smartphones to market in Africa and other emerging markets, said Anshul Gupta, an analyst at Gartner in Mumbai.

Mr. Gupta said there was pent-up demand among African consumers for a smartphone costing $100 or less. He said several smaller Chinese phone makers, including TCL, ZTE and Lenovo, were working on developing simpler smartphones that sold for $50.

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Lumia Sales Lift Nokia Fourth-Quarter Results

The Finnish company, which has been losing market share to Samsung and Apple, said the better-than-expected result was also helped by cost cuts, a stronger-than-expected performance from its Nokia Siemens Networks unit and 50 million euros ($65.2 million) in patent royalties.

The surprise announcement lifted the shares to nine-month highs and eased pressure on Chief Executive Stephen Elop, who has been trying to prove his February 2011 decision to switch to Microsoft Windows software was the right one.

Elop was seen to be running out of time after saying that the transition would take two years. Success of the high-end Lumia smartphones has been considered crucial for the company’s survival, and investors had said Elop would need to quit or change strategy if sales did not pick up by early 2013.

“We’re very pleased with the Lumia response,” Elop told analysts, although he added that sales of the latest 920 models, which use the new Windows Phone 8 software, had been constrained by a shortage of supplies.

Nokia estimated fourth-quarter operating margin in its mobile phone business was between break-even to 2 percent. It previously forecast the margin to be around minus 6 percent.

Official results, including more details on its profit and cash position, are due on January 24.

Fourth-quarter net sales in devices and services were about 3.9 billion euros ($5.09 billion), Nokia said. It sold a total of 86.3 million devices. Smartphones accounted for 6.6 million units, of which 4.4 million were the Windows-based Lumia handsets.

Nokia shares rose 10.8 percent to 3.32 euros as some investors cheered the rare positive announcement from Nokia and traders scrambled to cover their short positions.

Nokia had 17 percent of shares out on loan, according to Markit data, making it one of the most “shorted” stocks in Europe.


The company said that conditions remained tough despite the stronger-than-expected fourth quarter, and forecast its margin to be around minus 2 percent in the first quarter of this year.

“We continue to operate in a competitive environment with limited visibility,” Elop said.

Some analysts were skeptical about the success of the Lumia strategy. Nokia would not say how many of the Lumias it sold were the newest models rather than the heavily discounted ones launched earlier.

Many also noted Lumias sold in the fourth quarter still make up a small portion of global smartphone sales in the same period, estimated at over 200 million.

“4.4 million Lumias sold is not yet a promise of a turnaround,” said Inderes analyst Mikael Rautanen, who had just downgraded the shares to “sell” on Tuesday.

Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu said he was still negative about the shares, rating them “underperform”.

“Last year, in order to sustain Lumia volumes, Nokia had to cut prices very rapidly, driving gross margins close to zero. We believe this will repeat this year,” he said.

Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was too early to call it a turnaround.

“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said. “I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”

($1 = 0.7667 euros)

(Additional reporting by Terhi Kinnunen and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Goodman and Sophie Walker)

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Bits Blog: Like Apple, Google Now Has Devices That Come in Three Sizes

From top: the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. From top: the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10.

With the addition of its new iPad Mini, Apple offers touch-screen devices in three sizes. Now Google is matching that by introducing a tablet that is meant to compete directly with the larger iPad.

Google on Monday unveiled the Nexus 10, a 10-inch tablet it developed with Samsung, and a new phone, the Nexus 4, that it made with LG. Google also said it would upgrade its seven-inch tablet, the Nexus 7, to include a cellular data connection.

Google’s Nexus line of devices shows off Google’s latest mobile software.

“We’re building pretty sensational world-class products here,” said Hugo Barra, director of product management for Android at Google, at a news conference in San Francisco on Monday. “You don’t find anything even remotely like that out there.”

Also on Monday, Microsoft held a press event in San Francisco to talk about the imminent release of Windows Phone 8, its new mobile operating system, which it announced in June.

Google, Apple, Microsoft and are all building devices in part to recruit customers to use their other services and buy apps, music, books and other content from them.

The Nexus 10 tablet includes a high-resolution display and the newest Android software, which has a feature that allows the tablet to be shared by setting up separate user accounts, something the iPad does not have.

Most notably, the 10-inch screen size will allow Google to go after the market that Apple created with the 9.7-inch iPad: people who are buying full-size tablets instead of laptops. The iPad has been Apple’s most quickly adopted product ever, with 100 million tablets sold to date. Clearly, that market is a juicy target for Google, as well as for Amazon, which recently introduced a bigger 8.9-inch tablet.

With the Nexus 10’s starting price of $400, $100 less than the cheapest iPad, Google has a good chance of selling plenty of tablets, said Jan Dawson, a research analyst with Ovum. But Google would still not pose much of a threat to Apple because it has been selling its tablets at cost, Mr. Dawson said. Google’s goal is to build market share and profit from ads and content sales.

“Neither Google nor Samsung can afford to do that for long with the Nexus 10,” he said. “The more they sell, the more money they lose.”

The Nexus 4 phone has a few features that the last Nexus phone did not. Among them are wireless charging by setting the phone on a small charging station, faster processing, an improved screen, typing by moving a finger instead of pressing individual keys and panoramic photo-taking.

Google also had news about Google Play, its store for apps, books, music and videos, which has lagged other online stores because it has not offered as comprehensive a selection.

Its music service finally signed a deal to bring the catalog of the Warner Music Group — with Green Day, Madonna, Neil Young, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and hundreds of other acts — to its Google Play store. This means Google’s millions of Android users will have an essentially complete catalog of MP3s to buy.

Google also recently signed deals with Time Inc. for magazines and 20th Century Fox for movies, filling other major holes in its offerings.

At its event, Microsoft said Windows Phone 8 would appear on new smartphones made by Samsung, Nokia and HTC starting next month. It also talked about some new features, like Data Sense, a tool that allows people to see how much data apps are using, so they can close data-guzzling apps and avoid exceeding their data plans.

Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing and promoting its Windows Phone operating system since releasing it two years ago. But despite some rave reviews from critics, Windows Phone 7, the previous version, has been unpopular among consumers, with only about 2.5 percent of the American market to date.

Nokia, the Finnish phone maker, has staked its future on Windows Phone. It formed a partnership with Microsoft to ship Nokia Windows phones. But sales of its Lumia handsets featuring the software have been slow.

Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s corporate vice president for Windows Phone, said in an interview that he felt it was the right moment for the software, because it was getting strong support from manufacturers and carriers, and was coming out at the same time as Windows 8, Microsoft’s new desktop and tablet operating system. The architecture of Windows Phone 8 has been rewritten to share the core software in Windows Phone 8, and many features will work between the operating systems, he said.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: October 29, 2012

An earlier version of this post misidentified the company that Google worked with to create the Nexus 10. It was Samsung, not LG. Thanks to commenter Joie2 for spotting the error.

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Microsoft, Defying Image, Has a Design Gem in Windows Phone

“GORGEOUS,” raves The Huffington Post.

“Best-looking smartphone operating system in the industry,” gushes Slate.

“Far superior to most if not all the Android smartphones,” says TechCrunch.

Sounds like the usual adulation for a gadget from Apple. In fact, they’re actually accolades for a new product from Microsoft.


Exactly. Long ridiculed as the tech industry dullard, Microsoft actually has a hit, at least with the technorati. It’s cellphone software called Windows Phone — and they need it to be a blockbuster here at Microsoft Central.

Yes, Windows and Office products are ubiquitous and highly profitable. But they’re about as inspirational as a stapler. While the likes of Apple have captured our imaginations with nifty products like the iPhone, Microsoft has produced a long list of flops, from smart wristwatches to the Zune music player to the Kin phones. Steve Jobs used to deride Microsoft for a lack of originality. In his opinion, the company didn’t bring “much culture” to its products. With Windows Phone, though, Microsoft is finally getting some buzz.

“I am a devoted Apple fan — I was in line for the iPhone,” said Axel Roesler, assistant professor for interaction design at the University of Washington in Seattle, but Windows Phone “strikes me as quite different and an advance.”

Windows Phone, which began appearing in devices last fall, certainly stands out visually. It has bold, on-screen typography and a mosaic of animated tiles on the home screen — a stark departure from the neat grid of icons made popular by the iPhone. While most phones force users to open stand-alone apps to get into social networks, Facebook and Twitter are wired into Windows Phone. The tiles spring to life as friends or family post fresh pictures, text messages and status updates.

Even so, relatively few consumers have been tempted, and sales have been lackluster. A big problem is that, initially, the handsets running Microsoft’s software, made by companies like HTC and Samsung, were unexceptional. Even more important, wireless carriers, the gatekeepers for nearly all mobile phones, have not been aggressively selling Windows phones in their stores. Most promote the iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system.

And so Microsoft has struck a partnership with Nokia, and executives at both companies have high hopes that their handsets will catch on with consumers. On Monday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia plans to introduce a sleek metallic Windows Phone called the Lumia 900 that will be sold by ATT in the United States, according to two people with knowledge of its plans who spoke on condition of anonymity because the product has not yet been announced. Unlike other handset makers creating devices with Microsoft’s software, Nokia is not also developing Android phones.

“We are doing our best work for Windows Phone,” said Stephen Elop, the chief executive of Nokia and a former Microsoft executive.

While the customers’ verdict is still unknown, the group that developed Windows Phone has already profoundly affected Microsoft itself, influencing work on other consumer products. The next major version of software for PC’s, Windows 8, will look a lot like Windows Phone, which Microsoft hopes will help it work better on tablet devices. A Windows Phone-like makeover was also part of the new software update for Xbox, which along with Kinect is one of Microsoft’s few consumer hits.

Bill Flora, one of the designers of Windows Phone, said the care that Microsoft took in designing its products had changed vastly since he joined the company out of art school in the early 1990s.

“Now, instead of 80 percent of its efforts being unenlightened, just 20 percent are unenlightened,” said Mr. Flora, who recently left Microsoft to form his own design firm in Seattle.

THE tale of how Microsoft created Windows Phone starts with the introduction of the iPhone, in 2007. To Joe Belfiore, now 43, an engineer who oversees software design for Windows Phone, that was the spark.

“Apple created a sea change in the industry in terms of the kinds of things they did that were unique and highly appealing to consumers,” Mr. Belfiore said in an interview at Microsoft’s campus here. “We wanted to respond with something that would be competitive, but not the same.”

Microsoft had been an early player in smartphones with Windows Mobile, software that ran on devices made by Samsung, Motorola and others. But one word describes its early effort: complicated. Windows Mobile had a complex array of on-screen menus, including a start button for applications that was borrowed from Windows PCs. The software ran on sluggish devices that had physical keyboards and, in some cases, styluses.

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Nokia to Eliminate 3,500 More Jobs

BERLIN — Nokia, the Finnish cellphone maker, said Thursday that it would eliminate 3,500 jobs, or 6 percent of its work force, by closing a factory in Romania and transferring production to more efficient plants in Asia.

The unexpected announcement, which sent Nokia’s shares up 2 percent in Helsinki, was the second wave of cuts this year from the company, a former global market leader, which began a 12 percent reduction in employee numbers in April.

The Nokia chief executive, Stephen Elop, described the Romanian plant closure as part of the company’s continuing effort to streamline production and meet consumer demand for smartphones, and to prepare for Nokia’s software collaboration with Microsoft.

“We are seeing solid progress against our strategy, and with these planned changes we will emerge as a more dynamic, nimble and efficient challenger,” Mr. Elop said in a statement. “We must take painful, yet necessary, steps to align our work force and operations with our path forward.”

Pete Cunningham, an analyst at Canalys, a research firm in Reading, England, agreed that Nokia was going through a period of unavoidable downsizing.

“The closure in Romania is unfortunate, but they have to streamline,” Mr. Cunningham said. “Over the years, they have grown really fat. Now they are in a process of trimming.”

“It is still going to be a couple of tough financial quarters ahead for Nokia,” he continued. “But we are hearing positive messages about their Windows Phone products.”

The company’s shares have fallen by half since Mr. Elop, a former Microsoft senior executive, announced in February that new Nokia phones would include the Windows Phone operating system by Microsoft.

The company’s decision to abandon Symbian, its proprietary operating system, caused some Nokia customers to balk at purchasing the soon-to-be obsolete models. Nokia responded by cutting prices on Symbian models, contributing to its €368 million, or $502 million, loss in the second quarter.

Nokia is expected to introduce the first of its models running the Windows Phone operating system at an investor conference in London on Oct. 26. Mr. Cunningham said he expected Nokia to present one or two new models at the event, probably high-end devices aimed at the year-end holiday season.

Mr. Elop said Wednesday that Nokia would be transferring the manufacture of the low-end phones made in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, to larger factories in China and South Korea, where Mr. Elop said production costs and economies of scale were more favorable.

The previous round of 7,000 job cuts, which is to be completed by the end of 2012, included the transfer of 2,800 employees to Accenture, a business technology consultant, next month.

With the new round of cuts, Nokia intends to shrink its devices and services work force, which stood at 59,150 at the end of June, by approximately 18 percent through next year.

In a separate announcement, Nokia said its former chief executive, Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo, had decided to leave the company and his position as nonexecutive chairman of Nokia Siemens Networks, its unprofitable network equipment venture with the German company Siemens.

Mr. Kallasvuo, who was the chief financial officer to Jorma Ollila, the chief executive who was the architect of Nokia’s early success, was succeeded by Mr. Elop last September after four years as chief executive. He then took charge of the equipment venture, for which Nokia and Siemens have been seeking new investors. The venture had a loss of €111 million in the second quarter.

Nokia said Mr. Kallasvuo would be succeeded by Jesper Ovesen, the former chief financial officer at TDC, the Danish phone operator, who was being appointed to help make Nokia Siemens a “more independent entity.”

To sustain the venture, which is under pressure from low-cost competitors like Huawei, the Chinese equipment maker, Nokia and Siemens on Wednesday agreed to each inject €500 million into the company.

In a statement, the companies said the €1 billion infusion was intended “to further strengthen the company’s financial position and set the stage for strategic flexibility, productivity and innovation in areas such as mobile broadband and related services.”

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Deciding on a Book, and How to Read It

This might not sound so extraordinary, but I didn’t just read a book in print, on an e-reader or even on a mobile phone. Instead, I read a book on dozens of devices.

I was not trying to set a Guinness world record or paying off on an obscure bet. I wanted to answer a question I often hear: which e-reader or tablet is the best for reading books?

So I set out to try them all, reading a chapter on each: the Amazon Kindle, the first- and second-generation Apple iPads, the Barnes Noble Nook, an iPhone, a Windows Phone, a Google Android phone, a Google Android tablet and a laptop computer. To be fair, I also read a chapter in that old-fashioned form — a crumply old print paperback.

The book I chose was “The Alienist,” by Caleb Carr. It’s a New York City crime novel set in the late 1890s and involves a serial killer, a New York Times reporter and Theodore Roosevelt. This seemed the perfect group of misfits to bring on my reading journey.

For the first chapter, I turned to an Amazon Kindle ($140-$190).

In a quest for the right e-reader, the software for the device and the simplicity of buying a book play crucial roles. Shopping on Amazon for the Kindle is simple; you go to Amazon’s Web site and purchase the book, which is then sent to any devices with Kindle software installed.

Reading on the Amazon Kindle is a joy in many respects. The Kindle is light, weighing under nine ounces. Its six-inch screen is the perfect size for reading, and reading on its black and white E Ink display over extended periods doesn’t strain your eyes.

Battery life is outstanding; on average you charge the device only once a month.

My only complaint with the Kindle design is the placement of the keyboard at the bottom of the device. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, played a crucial role in the design of the Kindle and has noted during past product announcements that the keyboard is there to help people take notes or search. But to me, it seems like a waste of space.

The Kindle also has other limitations. It is a dedicated e-reader, so you can’t hop off to the Web to look up facts, which I often wanted to do when reading a historical novel.

On the plus side, the Kindle software works on almost every device with a screen and an Internet connection. After reading my first chapter on the Kindle, I read subsequent chapters on a number of mobile phones. The Kindle app syncs your reading location between devices, so whichever one you pick up, it knows exactly where you left off.

Despite the small screen on a mobile phone, I find reading on one to be simple and satisfactory. Maybe this is because I have become accustomed to mobile screens, using them for hours at a time to check the news, sift through e-mail and navigate social networks.

All of the mobile phones on which I read chapters felt somewhat similar, although screen brightness and the size of the phone’s screen did vary. For example, I began Chapter 12 of the book on a Google Nexus S Android phone, which is made by Samsung. This phone is much lighter than an iPhone, but the screen felt a little less crisp. Reading on a Windows Phone 7 felt smooth, most likely because the Kindle app meshes well with the phone’s slick operating system.

If I had wanted to, I could have bought my book through dozens of e-book apps in the Apple App Store. Most are free and offer access to thousands of free e-books or paid versions. But the big downside for many is that you can read them only on Apple devices.

Apple also offers its own reading software, iBooks. Although iBooks looks beautiful, with a design that feels more like a traditional book, with sepia-toned paper and stylistic typography, again, it is available only on Apple devices. So if you own an iPad and an Android Phone, you won’t be able to jump between the two devices if you buy books through the iBooks Store.

For the next chapter, I downloaded the book from the Google eBookstore and read it on the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a Google Android tablet. The text was clean and easy on the eyes, but over all the experience wasn’t quite as satisfactory as I’d had with the Kindle, the other Android phones or the iPhone. The software hid menu screens in places that I had difficulty finding, and its design felt a little too rigid and even clunky.

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Digital Domain: Microsoft + Nokia = a Challenge for Apple

Make way, however, for Windows Phone. Yes, Windows Phone. Despite Microsoft’s multiple, abject failures with mobile phones since 2002, many software developers and industry watchers expect Microsoft to become the second-largest smartphone player worldwide.

The evidence isn’t visible today, nor will it appear anytime soon. Even at year-end, Android will have a 39.5 percent share of smartphones worldwide, according to projections from IDC, the research firm. Symbian — used by Nokia, though it is not a major presence in the United States — would be second, at 20.9 percent, while Apple’s iOS, the software that powers the iPhone, would be third, at 15.7. Windows Phone 7 and its predecessor, Windows Mobile, would be far behind, at 5.5 percent.

These rankings are likely to change thanks to one player, Nokia, which has seen its market share shrink in the United States. It has formed an alliance with Microsoft and will switch from Symbian to Windows Phone software on its smartphones.

As a result, according to IDC predictions for 2015, Windows Phone 7 will occupy second place, at 20.9 percent of the market, ahead of iOS, which is projected to stay near 15 percent. BlackBerry, then as now, would be No. 4.

(In the United States alone, IDC expects Windows Phone 7 to jump to third place by 2015, at 15.6 percent, behind Android, at 48.9 percent, and iOS, at 16.8.)

Despite its recent worries, Nokia remains the largest phone manufacturer in the world, and it has no equal in building handsets inexpensively. Last year, it sold more than 452 million phones, including 100 million smartphones.

“The average price paid for smartphones is going to go down, and the total number of smartphones is going to go up,” says Andrew Lees, president of Microsoft’s mobile communications business.

Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7, a major overhaul, last fall. By year-end, Microsoft had 5,000 apps in its store, a milestone reached three times as fast as Google’s Android, says Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst.

Mr. Lees says that there are now more than 11,500 apps. It’s not close to the more than 350,000 apps that Apple boasts for iOS. But the difference may not be significant.

“What is often missed is the diminishing returns after 1,000 applications,” says Thomas R. Eisenmann, a professor at the Harvard Business School. “If a platform attracts the thousand-most-popular apps, then it provides almost anything a reasonable person would want to do with a smartphone.”

I sought out iPhone software developers who have done well with iPhone apps to see what they make of Windows Phone. I was surprised that many are already adding titles for Windows Phone, despite the tiny market share.

“Microsoft has a perception problem. Everyone thinks of them as a distant third, but they’ve got a good product,” says David Roberts, chief executive of PopCap, a games developer whose Plants vs. Zombies game is among the iPhone’s top-grossing apps. The company just introduced its first Windows Phone game, Bejeweled Live.

Halfbrick, based in Brisbane, Australia, is another successful iPhone software developer. Last week, its Fruit Ninja game was No. 5 in the App Store’s list of top paid apps. It, too, has introduced its first title for Windows Phone.

Shainiel Deo, Halfbrick’s C.E.O., says that while games were not a major attraction on past Microsoft phones, games will be a differentiator that will favor Microsoft this time. For example, the Marketplace store of Windows Phone employs the same user accounts used for Xbox Live.

Mr. Deo says he, too, is susceptible to iPhone-centrism. “In Australia, almost everyone I see has an iPhone,” he said. But “the next phone for a lot of the Xbox gamers will probably be a Windows Phone,” he remarked. “And there are 30 million Xbox Live subscribers.”

Jeffrey R. Williams, a professor of business strategy at Carnegie Mellon, predicts that Microsoft will become a major player in mobile devices for one overriding reason: “They’re willing to spend billions of dollars, just as they did with Xbox,” he says. “And this is even more strategic.”

There is also little need to focus on tight integration with Microsoft Office, a keystone of the company’s marketing campaigns for its earlier phones. The Office integration pitch was aimed at corporate I.T. departments, which also made the purchasing decisions that shaped the personal computer industry.

The world has changed since then, Professor Eisenmann points out. “In PCs, it was business leading consumers.” he said. “This is a different game: consumers leading business.”

SMARTPHONES are a different case for another reason. In the industry’s formative period, Windows and Macs didn’t mix well on the same network, but different brands of smartphones share the same voice and data networks just fine. “I don’t think the network effects in smartphones are as strong,” Professor Williams says.

Nokia is in Microsoft’s camp. Good reviews of the software are coming in. Some leading iPhone developers are taking it seriously, and the company has plenty of capital to help it form alliances. Unexpectedly, Microsoft is well positioned to leap into the top ranks of smartphone players. A story to hearten latecomers everywhere.  

Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University. E-mail:

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