Microsoft really nailed the smartphone homescreen. In my opinion, it really is the best of all mobile platforms: not only can you add lots of apps, but you also can at a glance get useful information without opening any app. Now if only the apps quality was better…

Flickr, 10 years and slowly going mobile

Flickr 10th birthday

Last February, Flickr celebrated its 10th birthday. I missed the mark as I wasn’t a user back then, but I recently started using it here to embed pictures on my posts.

Tumblr is a great tool for writing, but it’s not very good to share photos or videos. I like using Flickr is better because you can embed slideshows on your posts, that people can easily share. Also, you can see how many people checked your pictures if you care.

But I’m surprised Flickr isn’t better better integrated with Tumblr. The 2 services are owned by Yahoo!, even if Tumblr is still run indepently. But an obious synergy would be the ability to to link your 2 accounts to easily embed your own Flickr pictures on Tumblr posts.

Following the rise of Instagram on mobile and the absorption of Picasa into Google+, Flickr is a bit lost in the social media landscape. On Google’s Play Store, the Android app hasn’t passed the 5M downloads mark. Obviously, it’s still mainly used on the desktop, and some features like “Flickr mail” clearly remind us the web roots of the service.

I still think Yahoo! made a good job revamping the service last year, the home page sure looks good. Also, Yahoo! seems to have great ambitions in media these days, at least enough to build a YouTube competitor in we read the rumors. I guess they’re not ready to let Facebook or Google own photo sharing too, and competition is always good.

Hell freezes over: Microsoft makes Windows free for some devices

Gregg Keizer for Computerworld:

Microsoft has adopted a strategy strikingly similar to that of its arch rival, which essentially gives away its Android mobile operating system, a key reason why Android now powers the majority of new devices shipped each month. (…) It also marked Microsoft’s flat-out admission that it could not make money in using its decades-old business model of selling licenses to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ODMs (original device manufacturers), but had to hunt for a new revenue generator, which it has described as “devices and services.”

Microsoft acknowledged today that the technology landscape has changed, and that in order to be competitive against Google they needed to drop their old licensing model.

I’m not sure though that it will woo phone manufacturers: even if Windows Phone is free, how would they be able to stand out next to the soon-to-be-acquired Nokia? And the OS still lacks some features and key apps anyway (YouTube is still nowhere to be seen after all these years).

Free Windows is a bigger deal for tablets: Windows tablets have a lot more to offer compared to their Android or iOS siblings, like true multitasking and the still useful legacy apps. But Microsoft still needs to fix the messy, schizophrenic Windows 8, and it seems that they now what to do.

Brief hands-on time with a Google Project Tango prototype at an event about 3D printing in Paris Pavillon de l’Arsenal. Thanks to Le Fab Shop and their guest Omar Soubra, lucky owner of the prototype and one of the first men to dare a 3D selfie.

Free Office Mobile on iOS and Android is a big deal

Office Mobile

Microsoft today finally released Office on the iPad, but it also made free the Office Mobile apps on iOS and Android. I think the second point is a really big deal.

Before today, Office Mobile was free on Windows Phones, and those with iPhones and Android phones needed to be Office 365 suscribers to use it. The free Office Mobile maybe was the only killer app on Windows Phone, now that’s changed.

Office Mobile is a killer app for those who don’t trust cloud-based app like Evernote, Microsoft OneNote or Google Keep. Nearly everyone thinks that their data is safe in the cloud, and that the Internet will exist forever. They’re wrong.

If you use Office Mobile, you also have to use Skydrive Onedrive, which syncs a local copy of your files and your PC. That’s for me one big reason to trust Office more than all these other cloud-based apps. 

So we’ll see if Office Mobile will climb its way up to the top of the App Store and Play Store charts. Microsoft anyway showed us today that it’s really becoming a mobile-first company, and no more a desktop/Windows-focused one.

Steam, Android and the OS of gaming

Steam stats

If Spotify aims to be the OS of music, then Steam could shoot at becoming the OS of gaming. Steam is digital distribution done right: buy once, play (almost) everywhere, as the software is available on PC, Mac and Linux. 

The tech press talks a lot about how tablets and smartphones are slowly killing the PC, but according to Bloomberg.com, gaming is not a dying business, thanks to Steam PC:

Valve captures 75 percent of the global market for digital PC games through its Steam store, researcher IHS Screen Digest has estimated. While the company doesn’t disclose sales, digital distribution of PC games this year will comprise $5.5 billion of the $21.4 billion computer games market, according to DFC Intelligence, another researcher. IHS estimates Valve generated $1.1 billion in 2012 from full-game downloads.

And the Steam ecosystem is growing, as reported by Wired.com last April: 

Last week, Valve announced that 65 million people were now active users of Steam, its gaming umbrella service for personal computers. That’s a number on par with the installed bases of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It’s a whole lot of gamers buying and playing the over 3,000 games on the service, from blockbusters like BioShock Infinite to one-man indie projects like Retro City Rampage and everything in between.

In a way, Steam built what Microsoft and Apple couldn’t do with their own Games for Windows Live and Mac App Store services: developers confidence for a cross-platform service. 

But what about mobile? With the Steam Boxes and the Linux-based Steam OS, Valve focus right now seems to be the living room, a crowded and maybe declining market.  It’s also interesting to see that even if Valve has developed a Linux client and the Linux-based Steam OS, it has not developed a true Android client… though Android is also based on Linux and Android PCs already exist.

Google’s Android is not yet on TVs, but it’s already ubiquitous and has the ambition to become the OS for everything. Steam has to be on Android if it doesn’t want Google to become the OS of gaming.

Tumblr just introduced a new kind of post: you can now dial a free number to post a short audio note to your blog. I can’t see much people using the feature (Twitter also allows to tweet via SMS though), but anybody who remembers the 90’s may have some fun and nostalgia watching this video.