Breakfast Briefing: Microsoft graph magic, TweetDeck clients killed, White House moves to unlock phones

In today’s tech news roundup, Microsoft unveils a touchscreen technology that could make number-crunching a lot more interesting, TweetDeck clients face the chop, and the White House responds to calls to unlock Americans’ mobile phones.

SketchInsight finishes your graphs

Microsoft has showed off an impressive prototype of a new presentation tool that automatically finishes graphs and diagrams for you. SketchInsight is like a clairovoyant, touchscreen version of Excel that’s designed to make dull business data more interesting.

Draw a circle on the screen, and it produces a pie chart for the underlying data; draw an L-shaped axis and a line graph appears. SketchInsight users can also create bespoke chart designs: doodle a matchstick man, and he replaces the bars in a bar chart of population data, for example.

The demonstration video (below) from Microsoft Research makes this all much clearer:

TweetDeck clients killed

TweetDeck was by far and away our favourite Twitter client until Twitter itself bought the company. Since then, the client and its associated apps have stagnated, so it comes as little surprise that Twitter is killing off the TweetDeck mobile apps and AIR-based desktop client.

Announcing the news on the TweetDeck blog, the developers say they will “focus our development efforts on our modern, web-based versions of TweetDeck” and the Chrome browser app – which, to be fair, have shown signs of much-needed improvement in recent iterations.

“Over the next two months users of TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for Android and TweetDeck for iPhone may experience some outages with those apps before they are removed from their respective app stores in early May,” warns the blog. Facebook integration will also be discontinued.

White House wants mobiles unlocked

The Obama administration has backed an online petition calling for American mobile phone owners to be allowed to unlock their handsets. Phone unlocking effectively became illegal in the US in January, after the Library of Congress ruled the practice would no longer be exempt from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Now, R. David Edelman, a senior advisor for internet, innovation and privacy to the Obama administration, says the US government is considering new legislation to legalise unlocking once more, describing such a move as “common sense”.

“The White House agrees with the 114,000+ of you who believe that consumers should be able to unlock their cell phones without risking criminal or other penalties,” he writes in response to the online petition. “In fact, we believe the same principle should also apply to tablets, which are increasingly similar to smartphones. And if you have paid for your mobile device, and aren’t bound by a service agreement or other obligation, you should be able to use it on another network.”

An illustrated history of emoji

Nobody designs online features better than The Verge, and its article on how emoji conquered the world is a first-rate example.

It tells how the little 12 x 12 pixel animations of smiley faces, hearts and other symbols became an unexpected hit with Japan’s mobile youth in the mid-1990s and spread across the world. Now emoji has been adopted into Unicode, the international standard for encoding and displaying the world’s languages on computers.

The Verge talks to the inventor of emoji, a seemingly bashful soul who says he wouldn’t really know what it meant if a girl sent him a text message with a heart symbol. Bless.


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