Technology News Headlines for June 20 2012 ( Wednesday )

On Heels Of Big Surface Announcement, Microsoft Previews Windows Phone 8

On the heels of Microsoft's big Surface tablet announcement, Redmond aimed to keep the buzz going with its Windows Phone Summit today in San Francisco, CA. There, the company previewed some of its platform features for Windows Phone 8, the latest version of its mobile software designed to tie its family of products together with PCs and (now) tablets.

But the audience didn't get another blockbuster unveiling like we saw earlier this week--we didn't expect as much. The summit was intended for developers and partners, and not as an opportunity to let CEO Steve Ballmer show off the company's future in his characteristic booming voice. "What we are not doing today is disclosing all the end-user features," said Windows Phone VP Joe Belfiore. "We have some pretty cool things to talk about that you're not going to get to hear about today."

The major announcement today was one that many had long anticipated: that Windows Phone 8 would share the same core as Windows 8, allowing for a lot of cross-pollination between the platforms in terms of apps and experiences. "In terms of the kinds of apps on Windows Phone 8, developers who are working on Windows 8 have incredibly easy transition to Windows Phone," Belfiore said. (And vice versa.)

That's not only appealing for consumers--who'll gain more features and apps on the platforms--but especially attractive for developers, who are gaining access to, as Belfiore boasted, the 1.3 billion people who use that same Windows core kernel.

Indian Court Adjusts Ban On Torrent Sites

A maverick Indian high court has shifted its stance against BitTorrent sites like Pirate Bay and Vimeo after a brigade of ISPs appealed a series of court decrees that required the blocking of the sites across the country. In an order, issued on June 15, the court clarified that injunctions would be granted for individual URLs rather than website-wide bans, so over the weekend websites like Vimeo and Pirate Bay have become accessible once again. Meanwhile in the U.K., the court order to ban Pirate Bay is still in place. BT has joined other ISPs as the latest major ISP to block access to Pirate Bay, but word is, those blocks have already been breached.

Amazon Appstore To Open For Sales In Europe This Year

As expected, apps on Amazon's Appstore are going global. Amazon announced today that the company will allow app makers across the world to submit apps for distribution outside the U.S., starting in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain, with "plans for further global expansion in the near future." Most apps on Amazon's app store are designed for the Kindle Fire, and it's likely an expansion in sales of the device will follow soon. Since April this year, Amazon has allowed developers to set up in-app purchasing, matching the monetization service that the Android and iOS app stores already offered their developers. Exisiting Amazon developers will have their apps sold internationally by default, but have the option of selecting to sell in certain countries. At the WWDC event in early June, Apple announced its intention to expand the international reach of its App Store. With yesterday's local currency announcement, Facebook is also wising up to the possibility of monetizing its global reach.

Facebook Turns Facebank, Soon Accepting Payments In Local Currencies

Facebook is changing its virtual "Credits" feature to allow users to make payments in local currencies around the world, very possibly a step towards developing Facebook as a payments platform on its own. When the service rolls out in about a month, Facebook users can enter credit card details and purchase gaming credits, for example, with real money instead of using virtual Facebook Credits. Facebook has also enabled monthly subscriptions, dropping its restriction to individual payments as it had until this announcement. Facebook requires all apps to switch to local currencies by the end of the year.

PayPal Refreshed To Promote Its Mobile Pay Push

PayPal, one of the earliest surviving success stories from the dotcom boom, is giving its system a sweeping overhaul today. The redesigned site is simpler and less cluttered, and has more capacity for promoting PayPal's newer services like its big play for the mobile payments space, including its iPhone credit card dongle. According to TechCrunch, the site is also designed to be touch-friendly, which may make it easier to interact with for PayPal clients using it on tablets and smartphones. This week the Wall Street Journal reported that "boutique" investment bank Keefe, Bruyette and Woods announced its coverage of eBay (which owns PayPal) in what's seen as a strong sign that the relatively young, digital-centric PayPal is assuming a more central role in the world's payments structures alongside more traditional banks.
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