Inspired By Google, Microsoft Adds Voice Command Feature To Bing Search

It’s been almost a year since Google introduced a feature that allows iPhone owners to search the Web using voice commands, and now Microsoft is getting into the game, too. As announced on the Bing Search blog, Sprint Wireless’ brand new Samsung Intrepid phone now comes equipped with a fresh voice user interface from Tellme, a speech-recognition company that was acquired by MS in early 2007.

As the video below demonstrates, you can use the new interface to search the Web by speaking your search query, compose a text message or dial a contact by simply talking instead of typing. The company cites a study from Sanderson Studio that found 40% of smartphone usage occurs in multitasking scenarios where the user cannot offer their undivided attention to their phone, and claims the new voice command feature should simplify their lives.

Despite what the title suggests, I think it’s perfectly fine for Microsoft to add features that plenty of people will find useful, whether Google came out with them ages ago or not. Competing companies copy stuff from each other all the time, so it’s hardly something to get overly worked up about.

Of course, the feature is restricted to just one phone on one carrier only for the moment, so in the meantime you can check out services like Dial2Do, although that application is more suited for action commands than searching the Web.

I hope in time Microsoft comes out with apps for the most popular platforms rather than keeping this type of feature phone-specific.

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Google: A Web Browser Is Not A Computer, Not A Search Engine, And Not A Ham Sandwich

482608166_8657a3616fGoogle has spent a significant amount of time over the past couple of years building a very impressive web browser, Chrome. By most accounts, it’s the fastest around, and isn’t system resource heavy, and those who use it seem to love it. But there’s a tiny little problem: Being the best product doesn’t matter when general users have no idea what the product even is. And I’m not talking about just your specific product, I’m talking about the product category in general. And I’m not talking about some crazy new tech, I’m talking about a web browser.

We’ve actually known since Google’s hilarious video this summer that plenty of normal people have absolutely no idea what a web browser really is, even though most use one on a daily basis. But today, Google has put together what can only be described as an extremely dumbed-down one minute video (below) and rudimentary website to attempt to explain to everyone once again exactly what a web browser is. And make no mistake, the undertone is clear: You should be using Chrome.

The web site consists of five parts: An area telling you what browser you are currently using, a place to show you the one-minute video, an area to show you a bit more about browsers and their performance benchmarks, an area to let you pick a new browser to try, and an area with tips and tricks for using a browser.

The video is much more subversive. While the first part is spent explaining what a web browser is not (not a computer, etc), by the end, Google throws out there that “the web browser is the most important piece of software on your computer.” And they continue, “so a faster web browser means that you’ll save time on every web page you open.” The hope there is that of course, people will look into what web browser is the fastest, and figure out its Chrome, and install it, since it is free to do so.

Of course, Google doesn’t bother to say that if you look up the fastest browser, find it to be Chrome, then try to install it on a Mac, you’ll be out of luck. Good luck trying to explain what Chromium builds are to these people, Google.

I all of a sudden don’t feel so bad having difficulty trying to explain to people what Google Wave is. And maybe now we know why Google actually is making Chrome OS: To stop having to explain to people what a damn browser is.

Screen shot 2009-10-06 at 12.30.27 PM

[photo: flickr/marshall astor]

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The Windows 7 Launch Party Video Was Not An Isolated Incident; They Have Party Favors!

It was only two weeks ago that the Windows 7 Launch Party video cut a burning swath across the internet, leaving only scorched sensibilities and a feeling that you'd lost something fundamental never to be regained. We lied to ourselves then that it couldn't be more than a blip on the radar, a PR pitch gone awry and furtively uploaded, unfit for human consumption as it was — a tainted morsel of the promotional meat grinder. And to be honest, I was ready to let it lie. But it wasn't just a morsel. Little did we know, the Windows 7 launch sausage factory would be squeezing gristle into our inboxes regularly — and now they've gone and sent us party favors.

Windows Mobile 6.5 Review: It Still Sucks.

Windows Mobile 6.5, we wanted to love you. We wanted you to come along and wash away the past, whisking away all signs of the antiquated 6.1 we've grown so tired of ragging on. We went into this review with the full hopes of emerging with a generally positive outlook. Sorry, Windows Mobile 6.5 - it's just not going to happen.

Microsoft Debuts Mobile Backup Service ‘My Phone’, Adds Premium Features

Coinciding with the introduction of the Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system, Microsoft has upgraded and launched its free phone backup service My Phone – previously in beta – and added a couple of useful premium features to it.

Despite the fact that the official My Phone blog and Twitter account remain silent for the time being, users have definitely taken notice and started tweeting about it.

If you have a Windows phone, you can use Microsoft My Phone to backup all your data, including your contacts, calendar, photos and more to a password-protected website. When you switch to a new Windows phone, or you lose (data on) your current one, you can head to the website to restore documents, contacts, music, and anything else you synced in just a few clicks.

The website also gives you an easy way to organize your phone photos, or to search your text messages and anything else you synced to the service. In addition, you get an easy starting point for redistributing media to your Windows Live account or other social networks, either from your phone or the web application. All in all, it’s a no-brainer to start using it if you carry a Windows phone. Most newer Windows phones come with the program pre-installed anyway, but you can also download it to your device on the fly right here.

Microsoft does not charge a fee for using My Phone, although it new boasts a couple of Premium Features which require a charge ($4.99). These features are:

- Ring Your Phone: remotely have your device ring so it’s easier for you to retrieve in case you misplaced it
- Locate your phone: in case someone stole your phone and left it on, this feature will enable the GPS receiver on your device and show it on a map
- Lock your Phone: will lock your phone and display a message (it can be your name and contact information) in case you have lost your phone and a good soul finds it
- Erase your phone: remotely wipe off all data from your phone

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Microsoft Demos Prototype Multi-Touch Mice

The other day, I went on a short tour of some of Microsoft's Labs, where they do everything from rapid prototypes of new products to acoustic testing in anechoic chambers. Most of my time was spent in the Applied Sciences group's labs, where they are working on some seriously interesting devices. And they're not just into mice; in fact, the lab's specialty seemed to be anything to do with optics and/or input. This lab worked on Project Natal, and also on the pressure-sensitive keyboard I wrote about a while back. They were kind enough to show me all these crazy multi-touch mice, and, when I was too inept to demo even one of them solo, offered to go through them with me on video.

Microsoft’s Project Pink Might Be Dead In The Water

To say we were unimpressed with the first leaked shots to come out of Microsofts "Project Pink" would be a bit of an understatement. This was Microsoft's first in-house foray into the mobile hardware space, and we'd been hearing tales of it for years; yet in the end, what we were seeing was bad enough that we equated the two leaked devices to "a midgie Pre and a Touch Pro crossed with a jellybean". And now, it all begins to make sense. We were recently contacted by a source with a seemingly exhaustive knowledge of Microsoft's Project Pink, and what they've shared with us doesn't sound good. It seems that the project as a whole began -- and will likely end -- in vain.