Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier

Also, iPad keyboard/cover to rival Surface, 8-inch Windows 8 tablet

UPDATE: Microsoft has delayed availability of its Switch to Windows Phone app until sometime next week.

Microsoft figures customers will be more likely to switch from Android smartphones to Windows 8 phones if it makes it easier to find the same or similar apps for their new phone as were on their old phones.

Microsoft is introducing Switch to Windows Phone, an application that finds identical or replacement applications for Windows Phone 8 in the Windows Store to replace their old Android apps.

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The new application, which is being released today, is not available for iPhones.

Switch to Windows 8 inventories all the applications on the Android phone and sends that inventory to the cloud. When customers log in to the same cloud account from the Switch to Windows 8 app loaded on their Windows Phone 8, the app finds the same set of applications. If there are no exact replacements, the app recommends similar ones, according to Guru Gowrappan, executive vice president for products at application search firm Quixey.

Quixey supplies the apps-search engine within Switch to Windows Phone. The engine uses descriptions of apps, reviews of apps, trouble reports about apps and other metadata it gathers from the Web to recommend substitute applications to users, Gowrappan says. The goal is to make them as close as possible to matching the app on the Android phone.

In the case of Switch to Windows Phone, the Quixey search engine goes through the 135,000 Windows Phone 8 applications in the Windows Store seeking direct matches – such as the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app to replace the Android Facebook app – or to find applications that perform as close to the same function as possible, he says.

The search engine can also look for applications based on what customers want to do. So a customer could enter “cook Italian food” into the engine and would get a list of apps such as Tuscan Chef and Italian Video Recipes.

Sprint Zone and Sprint Digital Lounge use Quixey’s engine to find apps as does ask.com for searching Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry applications.

Keyboard for iPads mimics Surface

Logitech is selling a thin, fabric-covered keyboard/cover for iPads that give the Apple tablets similar functionality to Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface tablet/laptops.

Called FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, the keyboards attach magnetically to iPads and flop down to convert from being a cover to being a keyboard. The device includes a prop to hold the screen at a slant for better viewing when typing. It can also fold over to allow use of the iPad as a tablet.

At $150, that puts iPads with keyboards on a price par with some models of Surface tablets with keyboards.

Some differences: Surface supports Office applications and a file system, something iPads lack. Surface draws power from the computer battery; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio has its own rechargeable battery. The Surface keyboard communicates with the tablet via direct electrical connection; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio uses Bluetooth.

8-inch Windows 8 tablet

Acer is coming out with an 8-inch tablet running Windows 8 if a leaked photo is to be believed.

Windows 8

The photo here was posted by the site minimachines.net but taken down at Acer’s request.

If the Acer Iconia W3 is an actual product, it will be the first of several due to come out later this year, according to comments made by Microsoft CFO Peter Klein during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

Tim Greene covers Microsoft and unified communications for Network World and writes the Mostly Microsoft blog. Reach him at tgreene@nww.com and follow him on Twitter@Tim_Greene.

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