A bullet-point recap of yesterday’s big Microsoft news

Wow, and wow! The keynote session of Build took place yesterday, and Microsoft went into overdrive by releasing lots of information about their updates to Windows desktop, Windows Phone, and some technologies and services which power both platforms. In addition, Nokia sneaked in a handful of announcements too!

There’s a lot of in-depth detail on other sites (which I’ve linked to), but here’s a quick bullet-point recap of the big news of the day (well, in my opinion, anyway)!

Windows Phone 8.1

  • Cortana! (more on which below)
  • Action Center: At last, a notification centre (on steroids) for Windows Phone.
  • Word Flow Keyboard: A “Swype” type keyboard. Seems fast – as in it’s the new “Guinness World Records – Record Holder” fast!
  • Calendar can now be panned with left/right swipes (at last!), and also has a week view.
  • Skype is integrated deeper into the phone (more of which below), including being able to “upgrade” regular voice calls to Skype calls at a touch of a button.
  • Xbox Music, Xbox Video and Xbox Podcasts are now baked in. Podcasts are now available globally (we’ve only waited two years for this in the UK). Syncs with Xbox Music and Xbox video across PC, tablet and Xbox.
  • Wi-Fi Sense: auto-connects to free (trusted!) public hotspots. Also syncs Wi-Fi passwords between phones, PC and Tablet.
  • Three-column start screen for ALL sizes of screen.
  • IE11 supports InPrivate browsing and introduces a new Reading mode. See below for some IE11 sync/synergy coolness in the Windows Synergy section.
  • Ability to set a Start screen background that scrolls quite neatly as you move up/down the screen (personally, I’m not too excited about this).
  • Lock Screen Themes – customise your lock screen. Make it look like Zune! 😉
  • Small tweaks to People Hub, Email and Accounts, Photos and Camera
  • Separate volume controls for ringer/notifications and for your apps/media. (I’ve never had an issue with one volume control, but it’s an oft-requested feature which has now been implemented!)
  • Miracast support – wirelessly broadcast video from your phone to your TV, Xbox, or other compatible device.
  • Ability to project your phone screen onto PC via USB.
  • Deeper support for Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms (enhancements in enrolment, content management and app management).
  • Improved certificate support.
  • New Enterprise (EAP-TLS) Wi-Fi support.
  • Ability to encrypt email (via S/MIME).
  • Details of Windows Phone 8.1 improvements here.
  • Further details of Windows Phone 8.1 at the WP UK blog here.

Windows 8.1 Update

  • The biggest changes come to keyboard/mouse users. Windows 8.1 had a great user interface experience for touch users; less so keyboard/mouse users. This has now been improved.
  • You can pin Windows Store apps on the desktop
  • All Windows Store apps have app bars (for close and minimise) – just move your mouse to the top edge of the screen.
  • Windows taskbar can now be “peeked out” by moving the mouse to the bottom edge of the screen whilst in any app.
  • Power and Search buttons are presented on the top-right of the Start screen for keyboard/mouse users.
  • Right-clicking any app tiles on your Start screen presents the familiar right-click menu (just like right-clicking on the desktop).
  • Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE) provides legacy compatibility for older corporate web-based apps (mostly those that were coded to run well with IE8).
  • Windows 8.1 Update is available now to corporate users, and will be available to EVERYONE on April 8th.
  • A quick video of the improvements here.
  • A very detailed blog post of the improvements here.
  • An IT Pro blog post on Windows 8.1 Update (especially useful to understand the upgrade/installation scenarios).


  • New *personal* Digital Assistant (Microsoft’s emphasis, not mine).
  • Similar to Siri, but powered by Bing. The “personal” side is that Cortana learns about YOU (via what you do on your phone, even to the level of reading your emails if you allow her to) to pick information that is pertinent and relevant to you.
  • Cortana amalgamates data from both the web (news, alerts and more) and your personal data (email, calendar, apps).
  • Released in the US shortly as a beta. Launch version expected in the second half of 2014 – this will add UK and China to the release territories. All other countries to follow in 2015.
  • On launch, Cortana can deal with searches of personal and web data, organise your diary, set reminders, and integrate with the built-in apps (phone, Skype, etc.).
  • If you speak to Cortana, she’ll speak her reply. If you type to Cortana, she’ll reply by text – great for meetings!
  • Cortana has a “notebook” – here, you can see the personal data she builds for you, and fine-tune for accuracy and privacy.
  • Cortana can sync (if you allow) some of your interests back to Bing. These snippets of information will light up for you when you use Bing.com or Bing apps.
  • Cortana can be extended by third-party apps. Skype, Hulu Plus and Facebook are amongst the first few apps that work with Cortana.
  • Working with Wi-Fi Sense, Cortana can detect “key” locations. You can have her turn your Wi-Fi on only at those spots (for example, your Wi-Fi is turned on at home, turned off during your drive to the office, and re-activated at the office. Smart!)
  • A geek-point this… the idea of Cortana’s personality on Windows Phone was partially derived from the Cortana character of the Halo videogame series. It’s utterly brilliant to know that the voice actress for Cortana on Halo is the very same person lending her vocal talents to Cortana for Windows Phone. This is basically every Halo fanboy’s dream answered! Well done, Jen Taylor! 🙂
  • Great blog post from Bing on how Cortana integrates and extends with Bing services.
  • The Verge covers the story of Cortana’s creation here.

Windows Synergy (including IE11 and Skype)


Miscellaneous Stuff

  • Windows Server 2012 R2 Update is also now available.
  • Windows Phone adds two more OEM partners – Prestigio and Micromax. It’s great to see more manufacturers support Windows Phone.
  • A touch version of Microsoft Office was shown at Build. This’ll be part of the next Office release.
  • The Windows Start menu WILL return – this was also shown at Build, and will be part of a future Update release.
  • WINDOWS IS FREE FOR PHONES AND TABLETS WITH SCREEN SIZES OF 9″ OR LESS! That’s right – Windows Phone is now essentially free for phone manufacturers. I really, really hope this signals an upshift in the number of Windows Phone models we’ll see in the future!


Phew! Have I missed anything? 😛

Microsoft & Nokia: My Personal Thoughts


Well, the big news has been swirling around the Interwebs for several hours now – that Microsoft is acquiring Nokia’s devices and services division.

A collection of industry pundits and financial analysts have been spinning their own perspectives on this already. The reaction seems generally positive, if measured.

Personally, I see this as a massively positive step for both Nokia and Microsoft (then again, of course I would, being an ardent pro-Microsoft guy).

The upside for Nokia is a no-brainer. The Devices and Services arm has been losing money for a substantial period now. The losses have reduced, but losing €33 million in their latest quarter is still a substantial hit! Offloading the loss-making phones division shores up Nokia’s balance sheet, and allows them to focus on their profit-making NSN division. In addition, it will make Nokia’s job licensing their mapping (HERE) and “Advanced Technologies” to other OEMs a much easier experience, since these are no longer tied exclusively to Nokia handsets. Topping this off, Risto Siilasmaa – Chairman of Nokia’s Board of Directors – himself admitted that “it’s evident Nokia doesn’t have the resources to fund the required acceleration across mobile phones and smart devices”. [Source: CNET]

The upside for Microsoft is less clear-cut. Spending €5.44 billion – in cash – is no small decision. Thankfully, it shouldn’t trouble those fickle American stockholders too much – this purchase is being funded by Microsoft’s overseas cash reserves – money that would have been difficult to repatriate into the US (and thus to shareholders) without incurring a substantial tax hit. So, what does Microsoft get for its cash?

Immediately, and in the short term, Microsoft gets control of the hardware component of Windows Phone. This is no small thing. The influx of 32,000 new employees (to an existing 90,000 strong workforce) will include among them the designers responsible for the signature Lumia look and the geniuses behind the 41-megapixel PureView technology. Microsoft are buying an awful lot of design and technical expertise – something that would have taken years to build organically. The acquisition helps to short-cut this process, and enables Microsoft to more seriously compete with Apple and Google/Samsung in the shorter-term.

Microsoft also instantly acquires a large, well-developed, and well-respected channel distribution network to mobile operators all over the world. As Surface so aptly demonstrated, creating great hardware is only half the battle. You need to get these devices into the hands of the consumer. Nokia has long cooperated with mobile operators, and the market share and visibility of Nokia’s Windows Phone devices – versus those from Samsung, HTC and others – demonstrates how important distribution and operator support is.

The acquisition also fits very neatly into Microsoft’s medium-and-long-term plans. Back in July, Microsoft announced a massive reorganisation for the business, announcing a “One Microsoft” that encompassed Devices and Services. Hardware devices suddenly became a core, strategic part of the entire Microsoft business (and not just “small” sub-divisions, like Xbox or keyboard/mice). Surface was the first play in this area, and the Nokia acquisition outlines just how committed Microsoft is to the “devices” part of their Devices and Services vision. The vision itself makes sense, especially in respect to Windows Phone. It was clear that – other than Nokia – OEMs were generally not pushing nor innovating on the Windows Phone platform. Their support seemed – frankly – lacklustre, almost as if they were paying lip-service, but not really trying. Nokia certainly invested and pushed the platform as far as they could, but were hampered by resources. Now, in the hands of a cash-rich owner, the hope is that Microsoft can make substantial investments into Windows Phone devices in order to create a better mesh between their hardware and software, as well as tighter integration into the overall Microsoft ecosystem (think Xbox, Skype, Office, etc.)

One last long-term observation. Nokia is still the 2nd-largest manufacturer of mobiles phones globally. Lumia (and therefore Windows Phone) accounts for only a small proportion of these sales – last quarter, out of 61.1 million units, only 7.4 million sold were Lumia phones. [Source: Nokia]  That’s an awful lot of “feature-phones”. Looking over the long-term, those feature-phone users will slowly upgrade to smartphones. If Microsoft can hold the customer loyalty, and spring-board Asha feature-phone buyers to Lumia smartphone buyers, then they are looking at a significant growth in overall market-share for Windows Phone. In order to do so, Microsoft needs to treat the Asha line of feature-phones with care and support, to convert those phone users to Windows Phone toting Lumia smartphone owners… This, I think, is Microsoft’s biggest challenge in the mobile phone space.

As a Partner, and as a long-time Microsoft supporter/fan, I’m extremely optimistic about today’s news. The potential for changing the mobile phone segment is massive… Please, Microsoft, don’t squander this brilliant opportunity through mismanagement, indifference or inaction!

Windows Phone 8 – Here we come!

Just a short post! I’ve been *very* fortunate to be invited by the UK Windows Phone team to attend the Windows Phone 8 launch event in London on 29th October!

I’ll be making the most of my opportunity to touch, stroke, rub and fondle the latest Windows Phone handsets from Nokia, HTC, Samsung and others! Exciting, exciting times!

Anyhoo – if you have any burning questions for the Windows Phone team, any of the handset manufacturers, or indeed just want an opinion on anything while I’m down there, drop a comment/question below and I’ll do my level best to get an answer for you! 😀

Microsoft/Nokia Windows Phone 8 Event

So, the Windows Phone 8 OS has been officially unveiled by Microsoft, and the new hardware from Nokia has also been revealed.  There will be lots of in-depth, comprehensive articles floating on the Internet (the best of which I’ll link to here), but here are the bullet-point highlights!



Slightly disappointing, as this event was a mere tease at Windows Phone 8. Microsoft have stated that a full launch event will happen in the near future. However, in addition to the already announced features, the following was showcased:

  • The fairly brilliant maps available on Windows Phone 7 (and 7.5) has been enhanced, and Windows Phone 8 will introduce Indoor Maps. Basically, you’ll be able to see and navigate the inside of airports, train and bus stations, shopping centres, etc – with a full directory service (location, phone number, opening hours) of all the shops inside.
  • The new Live Tiles has been emphasised – a reminder that there are now three sizes (small, normal and double-wide). As before, information from your phone, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other sources can be knitted together into a single Live Tile for relevant, “at-a-glance” updates.
  • A minor (but *much* requested) feature – screenshots are now supported in Windows Phone 8.
  • In the camera, the Zoom Bar has been removed. You now use the more intuitive pinch-zoom gesture instead…
  • The new Camera App supports “Lenses”. These are links to specific applications that use the built-in camera app. So, third-parties can now write apps which can be directly accessed by the Camera App. Photos taken with these “lenses” are tagged with the app, and can be opened directly into that app – allowing the special features to show through. A great example is Photosynth – using the Camera Roll to browse to photos taken by the Photosynth “lens”, you can click that image and suddenly access a 360 degree panoramic view that you had taken with that app.
  • Windows Phone 8 now supports automatic, full-resolution uploads of photos to SkyDrive.  This also includes any photos taken by third-party apps or “lenses”.
  • …er, and that’s mostly it! The rest is rumour and speculation for now. The full Windows Phone 8 feature set will be unveiled later this year. Bah!



First, there is a short promo video. Watch it now! Smile

So, the Lumia 920 is Nokia’s new flagship Windows Phone 8 device. It’ll have:

  • Nokia PureView: introduces a new assembly type for cameras built into smartphones. The entire camera assembly “floats” in the phone, stabilised by a series of tiny springs. This allows the sensor to “float” and stay still, reducing blurriness when taking low light and night shots, and also allowing very steady HD video to be recorded.
  • The PureView technology allows 5-10 times the amount of light to be captured by the sensor, compared to any other smartphone camera. This allows much better capture of images in low light or night shots. Brilliantly, The Verge have captured images of shots taken from a current market-leading handset (the Samsung Galaxy S III), and the Lumia 920.



  • Nokia PureView also records very, very stable HD video. A side-by-side comparison was shown at the event.  Suffice to say, the video footage taken by the PureView camera was incredibly smooth and steady. Nokia have now released a YouTube video demonstrating the difference in quality.
  • The Lumia 920 supports wireless charging. Adopting a current industry standard, they will be partnering with multiple organisations (such as Virgin Atlantic, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and other venues) to offer “pads” where you can simply place your phone and have it charge.  As Nokia support the Qi industry standard, expect compatibility with other manufacturers’ devices when they come into the market.
  • A great demo of the ease of wireless connectivity was given when Nokia unveiled a new speaker from JBL. You just tap the phone with the speaker system to allow the devices to pair and the music to automatically stream from phone to speaker wirelessly (using NFC to pair and Bluetooth to stream – but all that happens automatically, as you just need to tap them together). Then, just place your phone on top of the speaker and it’ll wirelessly charge. Neat! Smile
  • Nokia Maps and Nokia Drive continue to be offered to Lumia owners. Both apps allow full offline access of information, which is especially useful if you’re travelling abroad and don’t want to pay roaming charges.  Maps offers walking directions and a directory service of shops/places, and Drive offers full sat-nav capabilities…
  • Nokia City Lens offers an “augmented reality” view showing distance and information on shops, stations, landmarks, etc. Just hold your phone up where you are, and it’ll show the relevant information (The Verge has a great photo of this)


  • Nokia Smart Shoot is a new camera application – great for taking photos of landmarks or galleries (and other tourist spots). Basically, it takes a series of images and can combine them into one. So, say there is a random person who walks across your photos that you want removed – just tap that person and the software will compare multiple images, and remove the person from that one shot, combining many photos into one and removing any unwanted objects. Cool! Smile
  • Hardware-wise, the Lumia 920 sports a 4.5” curved display (similar to the subtly curved display sported by the Lumia 800).  The camera still uses a Carl Zeiss lens.
  • The display supports “super sensitive touch”, allowing you to use the touchscreen with your fingernails, or even through gloves (and not the special gloves, but any “ordinary” ones)!
  • Nokia PureMotion HD+: offers “better than HD resolution”. It’s WXGA, which is a 1280×768 resolution.
  • The PureMotion HD+ also sports enhanced ClearBlack display, which uses smart polarisers to automatically adjust the screen colour tone and brightness based on the amount of sunlight hitting the display.  This is not simple brightening and dimming of the display, but full colour, brightness and contrast adjustment, on-the-fly.
  • The PureMotion HD+ display also has an incredibly high refresh rate, ensuring that there’s no blurring at all when scrolling at speed…
  • For the display geeks, it has been confirmed that the Lumia 920 sports an IPS TFT display, and not the controversial PenTile display that the Lumia 800 sported.
  • The build-quality of the entire phone is incredibly robust! Even the keys and camera badge on the back are made from ceramic – basically making them impossible to scratch!
  • Finally, it comes in five colours – black, grey, white, red and yellow… Smile




In addition to the flagship Lumia 920, the Lumia 820 was also unveiled. Sporting a slightly smaller 4.3” display, it also comes with built-in NFC, and wireless charging. No PureView or PureMotion HD+, though.




So, a few disappointments:

  • Pricing and availability for the Lumia 920 and 820 was not announced, other than a vague “Q4” for “selected territories”… Sad smile
  • Not all the Windows Phone 8 features were unveiled – we were given a teaser more than anything else. The full unveil will be in a forthcoming event…



Already, there are a glut of articles on today’s announcements. The best are listed here:


And that’s it, really. Hopefully the bullet-points are easier to digest, and there’s a bunch of links just above for full, in-depth articles! Smile

Toys for the Mobile Geek!

People have often asked why I carry such a large notebook bag everywhere I go…  To which I reply, “So I can carry all my toys with me, silly!” Smile

Well, Microsoft Hardware have just launched some new toys, and these will definitely be added into my mobile collection!


Catch up on Microsoft’s blog entry to find out more about these sexy toys, and check out their gallery for more beautiful shots!

Buy Your Very Own Windows Phone Tat!

We all love Windows Phone, right? Well, what better way to express your support than to buy gear from the Official Store?

120626 WP

…of Emoticons and Emoji

My goodness, I haven’t updated this blog for a while. The semi-shame… ;)  Anyway – this isn’t a real blog post, but more a useful reminder and reference to myself (and anyone else who comes across this) of the Emoticons that are built into Windows Phone.

If you want to find out more, read it direct from the Microsoft Windows Phone Blog…

Part 1: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2011/11/29/tip-tuesday-express-yourself-with-emoji.aspx

Part 2: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2011/12/06/tip-tuesday-more-fun-with-emoticons.aspx

Full Emoticons as follows:

A New Entertainment Experience

Everything you see in this video will be available before the end of this year… 😉

Yep – now there’s an alternative way to watch television broadcasts, movies on demand, radio, and music on demand…

For those in the UK, Microsoft have teamed up with the following content providers:

  • BBC (both TV and radio)
  • BSkyB
  • Channel 4
  • Channel 5
  • Last.fm
  • MSN
  • Zune
  • AlloCiné
  • blinkbox
  • Crackle
  • VEVO

And yes… Those of us with Windows Phone 7.5 handsets are also getting a little extra (see the video at around the 1:00 mark).

Windows Phone 7.5 (AKA "Mango") is out!

(Actually, it’s Windows Phone 7.1, but in marketing-speak it’s "Windows Phone 7.5".  Just as "Windows 7" is actually Windows 6.1.  Microsoft likes making product names complicated.)

After several months of waiting (but, impressively, less than a year since I blogged about the original launch), Windows Phone has just had a major update.  Welcome to Windows Phone 7.5.


What Exactly is Windows Phone 7.5?

It’s the latest release of Windows Phone.  If you have a Windows Phone 7 device, then expect it to politely ask you to upgrade the software over the next week or two.  All current Windows Phone 7 devices are eligible for update (and if you weren’t aware – it’s free).

However, there are a few new hardware devices out there.  If you haven’t got a Windows Phone already, then I’d *highly* recommend getting one of these new devices – as they have shinier hardware (like a front-facing camera and faster processors) compared to the devices released a year ago.  If you already have a Windows Phone device, then you’re still going to see a lot of exciting new stuff anyway – so don’t feel too crestfallen… 🙂

There’s a lot to discover in Windows Phone 7.5 (find out more here), but let me step through the stuff that excites me most!

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It’s All About the People You Know, Not the Social Networks You’re In!

This is the major theme in Windows Phone – which is why Microsoft have gone so far as to make the Windows Phone slogan "Put people first".

When you think about your contacts on a mobile phone, do you *really* want to to have them scattered across your phone contacts, your Facebook contacts, your Twitter contacts and your LinkedIn contacts? Or would you rather deal with one list that meshes all of these details together?

The People Hub on Windows Phone does this (although you can, if you’re crazy, turn this off).  When you click on a contact, you can see what they’re up to in Facebook, or what they’ve tweeted in Twitter – all in a single view.

Oh – and you can use Groups to – well – group certain people together.  Like family, or close friends.  Selecting this group shows you only the social updates relating to these people, as well as allowing you to text or e-mail them all at once.  Nice!

Threads allows you to string your conversation with someone into a single view. So – I could chat with you on Live Messenger, then move to Facebook Chat, and finally to SMS as I head outside.  Your Windows Phone will stitch the conversation together in one place, saving you the hassle of jumping to different applications to view different pieces of your conversation.

The last big thing for me is the History View – when you look at any particular contact and pivot to their History, you see a nice summary of all of your interactions with this person. All your recent calls, e-mails, text messages and more!

History view in contacts

There you go! Put people first.

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Speech Commands

Speech commands might seem like a gimmick, but you’ll quickly realise how invaluable it is when you’re driving.  Also – it’s faster to dictate a text message than to tap one out, so I suspect some people will use it as a lazy/easy way to send text messages!  The speech recognition is also great – it’s already part of Windows Phone 7 and has been expanded upon in Windows Phone 7.5.

Seriously – test this over your hands-free the next time you’re in the car!

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Bing Search

Bing Search on Windows Phone is already quite snazzy, thanks to the context search.  Do a search for "McDonalds", for instance, and you’re presented with the current share price and list of internet results.  You can pivot to Local and it’ll show you all the nearby branches of McDonalds.  Pivot again to News and it shows all the recent news articles that feature McDonalds.

Similarly, searching for "BA1317" returns the flight status for British Airways 1317 – the departure time, scheduled arrival time and expected arrival time.  Much easier than navigating to a specific web site or launching a specific application.

Search on Windows Phone 7.5 takes this a step further.  Music Search works just like Shazam, but is much faster to launch and also provides you with links to the music at the Marketplace (which can then be streamed direct to the phone with your Zune Pass).

Vision Search is arguably cooler – scan barcodes, QR codes or Microsoft Tags straight from search.  Even better – scan book covers or CD covers to get search results!

Oh – and did you know it can do text translation as well?  All of this powerful search functionality with two simple finger-presses!

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SkyDrive, if you didn’t already know, is your personal store on "the cloud".  It’s 25GB of free online storage which can be used to store and share your files.

Windows Phone 7.5 hooks up to SkyDrive in a couple of major ways.  First, you can set your phone to automatically store backups of any photos you take onto a private folder in SkyDrive.  This is a great way of keeping a backup of your images on the cloud, in case your phone suffers a terrible accident.  You can also choose to share those photos directly from SkyDrive, or to spend a few moments tagging people and captioning it, and then uploading to Facebook.

You can also store your Microsoft Office files on SkyDrive, and access them via your phone.  Handy for files on the move, but ultra-handy when you realise that any Office documents you have on SkyDrive can also be accessed on any PC, with any web browser, using Office Web Apps!

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…And So Very Much More!

I’ve only really just scratched the surface on the functionality offered by Windows Phone.  If you want to discover more, head to the comprehensive Help and how to page.

Also, jump into some of the community action to find out more:

If you want to find out more, or to see the phone in action, then give me a buzz! 😉

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Is Microsoft Falling *Into* Favour Again?

Interesting…  Microsoft posts a new blog entry about enhancements to File Copying in Windows 8, and the Interweb gets into a fairly excited tizzy!  Now bear in mind that File Copying – whilst utterly essential in an Operating System – is hardly a topic to get excited about.  However, judging by the coverage in various techie news sites – there’s definitely some pent-up enthusiasm for anything to do with Windows 8!  Monday’s post on USB 3.0 support was also similarly well covered.

As a long-time Microsoft proponent, there is definitely a sea-change in the perception of Microsoft and its products in recent years – especially around its consumer products.  Windows 7 and Office 2010 were really well received, Xbox 360 has been the best selling games console for over a year, and Windows Phone 7 has been universally lauded (although the commercial success has yet to materialise).

This is great news all-round, and I’m eager to see how warm a welcome the next wave of consumer products and technologies will receive!

Anyway – for the uber-geeks amongst us, feel free to get excited about File Copying here!

Figure 3 - Consolidated copy (more details view) Figure 4 - Pause (more details view)