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When you look at the combined 70 percent smartphone market share of Android and Apple in the U.S. compared to Microsoft’s measly and shrinking 6 percent, it seems like it’s game over before it really began for Windows Phone. Windows Phone is a decent mobile OS, even promising, but so far it has failed to capture the hearts and minds of developers or consumers. Can Microsoft do anything to change that and will it involve tying Windows Phone more tightly to its next desktop operating system, Windows 8?

There are some clues that this is exactly what Microsoft is planning to do. When we first saw the preview videos of Windows 8, with its touch and tile-based interface, people thought immediately of Windows Phone, which has a very similar looking interface. Instead of app icons, both use tiles which can display data and images from the underlying apps without opening them. The tiles themselves become a dashboard displaying the realtime data behind every app.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 are two separate operating systems. But what if Microsoft made it really easy for Windows Phone apps to run on Windows 8 PCs? Right now, most mobile apps on Android or Apple’s iOS devices live in their own separate world from the desktop (porting apps from iOS to OS X is possible, but doesn’t seem to be a very popular practice). The link to the desktop today is usually done via the web. If Windows mobile apps had counterparts on the desktop that synced up and presented themselves as a Windows 8 app tile, that could give Windows phone an advantage currently lacking in its rivals. It also would be in line with Microsoft’s classic embrace and extend strategy, whereby it uses its dominance of the desktop to extend to other areas. That strategy may no longer work in the post-PC era, but it is still worth a try.

We will probably see all of this come together with Windows Phone 8 and Microsoft’s upcoming developer framework for Windows 8 called “Jupiter.” Just as the god Apollo was the sun of Jupiter, so too is Windows Phone 8 (codenamed Apollo) related to Windows 8. As our own Sarah Perez wrote about Jupiter:

Jupiter may end up being the “one framework” to rule them all. That means it might be possible to port the thousands of Windows Phone apps already written with Silverlight to Windows 8 simply by reusing existing code and making small tweaks. Or maybe even no tweaks. (That part is still unclear). If so, this would be a technical advantage for developers building for Windows Phone 8 (code-named “Apollo” by the way, the son of “Jupiter”) or Windows 8.

As I noted above, even if this strategy is successful in creating a ton of cool cross-platform mobile-PC apps, it is not clear that will be enough to make a difference for Windows Phone. But it definitely points to the mobile and desktop worlds converging in the not too distant future, and not just on Windows. All your mobile apps should also be available in some form on your desktop. Not the exact same apps, of course, because mobile apps are built for touch interfaces, location, and to take advantage of your phone’s hardware such as cameras and accelerometers. Desktop apps, in contrast, still need to be designed for the mouse and keyboard. But the underlying data can feed native apps on both platforms.

Over the past decade, desktop apps have given way to the web. Wouldn’t it be ironic if their popularity makes a comeback thanks to mobile apps?

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At an internal meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that the company overproduced the Surface RT tablet, leading to its recent $150 per unit price cut. As quoted by The Verge’s Tom Warren, Ballmer plainly explained that the company “built a few more devices than [it] could sell.”

But we already knew that.

In its most recent quarterly earnings release, Microsoft took a $900 million charge relating to the Surface RT tablet line, essentially admitting that the inventory that it has on hand was not worth its previous internal valuation; you can’t cut the market price of a product that you have in a warehouse and not lower its value on your books. The write down cost Microsoft $0.07 per share. It missed expectations for the quarter.

Microsoft has been on a mission to clear Surface RT inventory for some time. As I wrote earlier this year, through a combination of giveaways and discounts, Microsoft was moving to liquidate what appeared to be mountainous superfluous unit volume of its ARM-based Windows tablet hybrid.

At that time, Microsoft released a bland statement, saying that the offers and handouts were in “response” to the “positive reaction” Surface had enjoyed since launch. That felt a bit backwards: If response had been so strong, why give away a single device or discount? Wouldn’t organic demand be sufficient? Well, as it turns out, reaction hasn’t been overly positive, so the entire argument was logically moot.

Ballmer said something else during the meeting that is a non-surprise: Microsoft is not selling as many Windows devices as it would like. We knew that, too. The figures released quarterly that describe the PC market are brutal – and dropping. Even Apple is suffering from declining Mac sales in the face of nearly insurmountable headwinds that it helped to create with its leadership of post-PC product categories.

Next-generation Surface devices are being designed and tested. I suspect that Microsoft learned its lesson regarding production volume: Prove product-market fit first, and then kick the afterburners.

Top Image Credit: BUILDWindows

The new Foursquare app for Windows Phone makes use of some of the cool new features and API’s available in the coming “Mango” update, and some of them are very useful. The one I like the best is the deep-linking feature. Say you’re using Bing’s local search, or Bing maps, or the Local Scout and you tap on a location to see more details. Swiping the screen to the left will show the “Apps” tab that lists a few apps that you can jump into and transfer some context sensitive information over. With the new Foursquare app, a Foursquare button shows up there and pressing it will jump straight into a Foursquare search for the location you had been previously looking at. From there you can tap the location and check in right away. You can also pop up the menu bar at the bottom and pin the location’s Foursquare check-in card right to your Start screen. This is useful if you check into the same place frequently or if you just want a shortcut to someplace that you plan on checking into later that day.

The app update also supports fast app switching so that there is no “resuming” lag time when switching between Foursquare and other apps. Plus, the primary nearby locations screen now supports a tap-and-hold menu for quick check-ins.

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The great thinkers of the world have long known a secret that we’re now happy to disclose: it’s not necessity that’s the mother invention, but rather laziness. Fortunately, expending a great deal of effort on a project – simply to perform a task effortlessly – sometimes brings very cool results. A concept app known as ZuneVoice easily passes muster in this realm, which is used to control Zune software on the PC with only a standard microphone and spoken commands. As you can see in the demo video, its creator, keyboardp, is able to play individual songs, issue commands such a “pause” or “next song”, and even display full-screen music videos from YouTube. The developer even crafted an app for his Lumia 800 known as PhoneZune, which serves as a remote control for times when he’s away from the box. Neither application is yet publicly available, though feedback is welcome. Next, we’re told to expect Kinect integration. Perhaps one day, these gems will see the light of day.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNFsx-_EDek

Word is that the public beta of Windows 8 is apparently slated to be released in late February of 2012, according to sources close to Microsoft. The timing of the public beta launch has been much talked about in tech circles; it’s expected that Windows 8 will be officially released in 2012, but the actual expected date for the completion and shipment of the upcoming Microsoft operating system remains, at the moment, unrevealed. Though, with the knowledge of the public beta release’s time frame, we’ll have a better idea of the overall time frame of the new Windows operating system.

The Next Web was unable to confirm from Microsoft precisely what will be in the public beta of Windows 8, the feature set not yet released nor specified. But it will most likely be decided by the engineers working on the project deciding which parts are release-ready. So, no information has been imparted yet on the email function currently missing from the developer preview of Windows 8, and if it will be in the beta in late February.

Though February is a bit a later than some of us were hoping for a pubic beta release, Windows 8 seems to be making continuing progress, and assuming that Microsoft hits this milestone, the official version of Windows 8 should be on track for its expected third quarter launch next year. Have any SlashGear readers downloaded or used the Windows 8 developer preview yet? What are your thoughts? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below.