At this year's Build event in San Francisco, Microsoft detailed its vision for the future of Windows, and it covers a wide range of devices and features. There's Cortana, a new voice controlled assistant for Windows Phone; universal apps that run on every Microsoft device, including your Xbox One; and even a free version of the operating system for devices under 9-inches. You can keep up with all of the latest right here.
Apr 7, 2014
"We started out as a company that was focused on developers…we’re again in that era now," proclaimed Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on stage at the company’s Build conference last week. The stakes are high: long renowned for its great relationship with developers, Microsoft is now watching them slip away. Last week’s dev-focused event was Nadella’s chance to prove that he would fight to win them back. In this moment of crisis, he stands poised to radically alter Redmond’s future.Read Article >
Take free Windows on small devices, for example. Ten years ago, the concept of giving away the crown jewel of Microsoft’s product portfolio would have been unthinkable, but the rules have changed: Android and iOS are in charge. Exciting new hardware like Pebble, Nest, and various fitness wearables are emerging, leaving Windows behind. Microsoft will now compete directly with Android’s model, a move that will result in cheaper devices for consumers, and — as Nadella undoubtedly hopes, anyway — more devices for developers to target.
Apr 5, 2014
Microsoft has been powering a lot of different car entertainment systems over the years. Ford, Kia, BMW, Nissan, and Fiat have all used special versions of Windows to create their own interfaces and systems, but Microsoft is also focusing on its own "Metro" user interface for its Windows in the car future. At the company's Build developer conference this week, Microsoft's Steve Teixeira revealed what that future will look like. It's actually a lot like Apple's idea of CarPlay, a method to project what's on your phone screen directly onto a car's infotainment system display.Read Article >
Microsoft has created a concept that it's currently testing in real cars, and the idea allows Windows devices to mirror what's shown on screen into a touch- and car-friendly interface. The current prototype uses the connectivity standard Mirrorlink, an alternative to Apple's CarPlay system. Mirrorlink is currently used by Nokia's Symbian phones and Sony's Xperia Z handset, but it's expected to gain broader support if infotainment systems start to use the standard more. Volkswagen, Honda, Toyota, and Citroen are all working on cars with Mirrorlink support, and aftermarket car radio manufacturers Alpine and Pioneer are backing it.
Apr 3, 2014
Skype will soon release an app for Windows Phone 8.1 that will allow users to upgrade their regular calls to video calls and use personal assistant Cortana to start Skype calls using voice control. The app will integrate into Windows Phone 8.1, adding a video button to the phone's standard dialer menu that will activate its camera, turning a cellular call to a Skype video call.Read Article >
Microsoft spent three hours today showing developers where it's going in the next few months, and beyond. As usual, its annual Build conference was chock full of code demos, but the company also spent its time showing off the next update to Windows Phone, which features a voice assistant named Cortana. The new tool shares the same name and voice of the AI character from Bungie's Halo series, and lets you search Bing and do things on your phone with your voice. It's playing catchup to voice assistants found on smartphones from Apple, Google, and Samsung, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.Read Article >
Nokia has unveiled the Lumia 930, a new flagship smartphone running Windows Phone 8.1. The new phone has a 5-inch, 1080p display housed inside of a rectangular body with metallic sides and a colored back, either orange, green, white, or black. It bears a strong resemblance to the Lumia Icon too, which was introduced for Verizon earlier this year. "The 930 is just a beautifully crafted device," Stephen Elop, Microsoft's upcoming device chief, said while introducing the phone.Read Article >
The 930 has a Snapdragon 800 processor, supports wireless charging, and includes a 20-megapixel PureView camera with a Zeiss lens, which Elop says should take great photos. "Naturally, as a flagship Lumia device, the Lumia 930 offers unprecedented images and videos," he said. The phone will come with updated imaging software along with some other software improvements, which Elop didn't detail. It'll be released globally, beginning in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and India this June. It will cost $599 before taxes and subsidies.
Apr 2, 2014
Millions asked for it, and Microsoft is providing it: the old Start Menu is coming back. Kind of. At its Build conference today, Microsoft announced a new Start Menu that looks like a hybrid of the best of Windows 7 and Windows 8. It's around the same size as the Windows 7 menu, but also features miniature Live Tiles along one side.Read Article >
In the same demonstration, Microsoft also showed a new mode that allows modern Windows 8 apps to run in the desktop environment inside their own windows. It's a return to Windows' roots for Microsoft, and will make a lot of keyboard and mouse users very happy. If any of these ideas sound familiar to you, that might be because they bear more than a passing resemblance to a concept by a graphic designer that The Verge highlighted late last year. The new desktop won't replace the current Windows environment entirely — the full-screen Start Menu and apps will still be around for those who want them.
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Microsoft has been experimenting with a free, or low-cost version of "Windows 8.1 with Bing," which includes a handful of Microsoft apps and services aimed at Windows 7 users. It's unclear if this is the result of that effort. Microsoft simply referred to the new, free version as "Windows for Internet of Things," and is including a free year of Office 365.
Using Office on a touch screen will get a whole lot easier soon. Microsoft has unveiled a new version of Office that gives each of its apps a mode built around use on a touchscreen — a feature that their predecessors quite noticeably lacked.Read Article >
The new version, which Microsoft calls "a preview of a work in progress," looks quite a bit like the Office that was unveiled for the iPad just last week: apps have a simple bar on top, leaving most of the screen below for viewing documents. Most importantly, the toolbars are sparsely populated and feature buttons that should be large enough and spaced far enough apart that they'll be easy to select with your fingers. That said, the version Microsoft is showing on stage looks more full-featured than the stripped-back iPad app. Microsoft's famous "Ribbon" UI is still around, but it's been nipped and tucked to make sense in a touch environment. Just like the iPad app, there are also pinch-and-zoom gestures, and pop-up contextual menus for modifying your documents.
Microsoft is introducing universal Windows apps, a way for developers to create a single app that works across Windows phones, tablets, PCs, and the Xbox One. "All of us want the same app experiences across all devices," David Treadwell, a Microsoft operating system executive said while introducing the new type of apps. "Yet today there’s no easy way to create apps that work across all form factors."Read Article >
That's changing within Microsoft's ecosystem, as Treadwell demonstrated on stage at Microsoft's Build developer conference while showing features coming in Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 updates. Microsoft says that this should be easy for developers to implement, as much of the code can be reused across the different platforms. Of course, the biggest benefit may be the simplicity for users: "I don't have to buy a different app for the phone and the PC," Treadwell said. And because it's a single app that's running across all screens, everything handled by the cloud should sync across them, including notifications and in-app purchases.
Apr 2, 2014
"I'm thrilled for you all to now meet our truly personal digital assistant for Windows Phone," says Joe Belfiore as he introduces the Bing-powered Cortana voice assistant. Belfiore is demonstrating all the new features in Windows Phone 8.1 at Microsoft's Build conference, with Cortana being the major highlight.Read Article >
Cortana is very much Microsoft's answer to Apple's Siri, Samsung's S Voice, and all the other voice assists software suites out there. It lets you manage basic phone functions, set appointments, perform searches, play back music, and set so-called quiet hours when only your inner circle of contacts may reach you. Similar to Google Now, Cortana learns from the web searches you perform and the locations you frequent to try and provide contextually sensitive and timely information.