Just one week after Microsoft announced the Surface Laptop and its lighter version of its operating system, Windows 10 S, the company is back in Seattle for another conference geared toward developers. In a race against the likes of assistants like Amazon's Alexa and Apple's Siri, here's a look at what's next from Microsoft in all things Windows, AI, Office, and more.
May 13, 2017
You can now play with Windows 10's impressive Story Remix video editor
Microsoft surprised everyone with a new Windows 10 Story Remix feature earlier today. It's essentially a video editing tool that will let you merge together photos and videos with impressive 3D effects. It was one of the surprise additions to Microsoft's Build keynote, and now the company is allowing Windows 10 testers to experiment with the new app ahead of its debut in the Fall Creators Update later this year.Read Article >
While Story Remix appeared to be a separate app on stage at Build earlier, Microsoft now describes it as "an evolution of the Photos app," suggesting that these features will simply ship as part of the default Photos app in Windows 10. If that's the case then Microsoft has just built a powerful video editing tool straight into Windows, something it has needed after it killed off Windows Movie Maker years ago.
May 12, 2017
The Windows Store is looking a lot like the future of Windows
It’s been a busy few weeks for Microsoft: unveiling Windows 10 S, the Surface Laptop, and a slew of major Windows 10 updates and features at Build 2017. But one thing that stood out among the various announcements by Microsoft was a renewed focus on the Windows Store, which is increasingly looking like a central piece of the future of Microsoft’s operating system.Read Article >
When the Windows Store launched back in 2012 alongside Windows 8 and Windows RT, things were very different. Fueled by the massive success of Apple’s iOS App Store, tech companies were running to create storefronts of their own to keep up (including Apple, who released the far less successful Mac App Store in 2011), and Microsoft wasn’t going to get left out.
May 12, 2017
Replacing VR and AR with ‘mixed reality’ is good for Microsoft and bad for the rest of us
At yesterday’s Build keynote, Microsoft opened preorders for its new line of Windows Mixed Reality development kits. Unlike HoloLens, which is also a Windows Mixed Reality device, these headsets are positioned as an alternative to the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. But as it’s done before, Microsoft refused to call them “VR headsets” — because, as HoloLens inventor Alex Kipman explained, the terms virtual and augmented reality are obsolete. “These are not separate concepts. These are just labels for different points on the mixed reality continuum,” Kipman told the audience. “This is why, to simplify things, we call all of it ‘Windows Mixed Reality.’”Read Article >
Kipman might be right in the long term. But for the near future, this “simplification” is making Microsoft’s VR strategy incredibly confusing.
I tried Microsoft’s first Mixed Reality headset and it was just like VR
Microsoft is planning to introduce a number of what it calls Mixed Reality headsets later this year. While the software maker first unveiled HoloLens as its answer to augmented reality, it has expanded its plans with a larger “Mixed Reality” focus. I got a chance at Microsoft’s Build developer conference to try out Acer’s Mixed Reality headset.Read Article >
The hardware itself felt comfortable on my head, and I was able to quickly adjust it for a tighter fit. It didn’t feel particularly heavy, but I only tested an app experience on the headset for around 10 minutes. The gaze support and tracking felt just like any regular VR headset, and it was quick to respond to when I glanced in opposite directions without making me feel sick.
Microsoft’s design video features a completely redesigned desktop and email appRead Article >
Microsoft introduced its new Fluent Design System today at Build, which it believes will usher the company into the future with a whole new look and feel for its products. The design language focuses on five areas: light, depth, motion, material, and scale. In between talk of what all these choices mean and why they’re important, the company gave us previews of how we can expect to see it executed. From the looks of it, Microsoft is experimenting with the design of a new email client, file system, and desktop, among other things. We took screenshots of everything we could find that looked new and clearly spoke to the company’s design choices. The desktop is particularly whoa. You can see it all below:
Microsoft will make its Edge browser faster in the next Windows 10 update
Microsoft is focusing on performance and responsiveness for its Edge browser in the next major Windows 10 update. During a developer session at Build today, the software giant outlined its priorities for the next release as part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. Top of the list is making sure opening and closing tabs are a lot smoother. If you’re familiar with Edge, you’ll probably be aware of the slight lag when opening a new tab and typing a URL occasionally. It spoils the experience, and Microsoft is aiming to eliminate this.Read Article >
Alongside performance improvements, there are some subtle design changes on the way. As part of Microsoft’s Fluent Design System, we’ll start to see some more modern design touches in Edge. A new favorites animation is part of that, alongside visuals for when you click on objects in Edge. Most of the changes are really minor on the design side right now, but Microsoft clearly has bigger overall plans with the Fluent Design System to gradually overhaul its Windows user interface.
May 11, 2017
Cirque du Soleil will use HoloLens to design sets and plan shows
Cirque du Soleil has partnered with Microsoft to develop a way for the acrobatic entertainment company to test out stage setups and choreography in augmented reality using HoloLens. A working version of the technology was shown onstage today during Microsoft’s Build conference for developers.Read Article >
Chantal Tremblay, the director of creation for Cirque du Soleil, explained that it takes the company about 18 to 24 months to go from choosing a theme for a show to releasing it to the public. Much of that time is spent building the show’s sets at Cirque’s studios in Montreal. But with HoloLens, Cirque scenic designer Carl Fillion said, the company will “be able to visualize the same stage and all the equipment into the same studios at real scale” months before construction. “We are closer than ever to a perfect creation tool,” he said.
Microsoft's next mobile strategy is to make iOS and Android better
Microsoft hasn’t had a great time with mobile. While we can debate whether or not Windows Phone is finally dead, Microsoft is certainly ready to move on. After missing the mobile boat, Microsoft is now trying to sneak onto iOS and Android devices like a stealthy submarine. We’ve seen the company focus on iOS and Android apps before, but at the Build event in Seattle this week the message is clear: Microsoft is finally being realistic.Read Article >
Microsoft's new push is to convince Windows users it can help them resume activities and apps even if they're using an iPhone or Android device. The idea is simple: it doesn't matter what devices you're using in the Microsoft world as long as one of them is Windows. Microsoft has a number of different tricks to try and make this a reality, and it truly believes it can help make iOS and Android devices better as a result.
The biggest announcements from Microsoft’s Build event
Microsoft just wrapped up its day-two Build 2017 keynote, and this is the one that was filled with news that’s more important to consumers and the company’s loyal fans. Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore, and other executives shared the stage to reveal details about the upcoming year for Windows 10, a new design philosophy for all Microsoft apps, the company’s mixed reality efforts, and much more. The presentation covered a lot and wasted little time, but here’s the biggest news that came from today:Read Article >
The name might be familiar, but Microsoft’s next big Windows update has a different focus than 3D productivity. The Fall Creators Update, likely to arrive in September, aims to bring aspects of the Windows experience everywhere you go. There’s a big focus on cross-device experiences: you start something on your Surface and finish it on your iPhone, or vice versa. “Windows PCs will love all of your devices,” Joe Belfiore said on stage.
Microsoft’s first VR development kits are available for preorder, will ship this summer
Microsoft is opening preorders today for the first Windows Mixed Reality development kits. The virtual reality headsets from HP and Acer are supposed to ship this summer, and can be found in the Microsoft Store. Acer’s kit will cost $299, while HP’s version — seen above — will sell for $329.Read Article >
While “mixed reality” often refers to augmented reality glasses like Microsoft’s HoloLens, both these products essentially seem like VR headsets. Like all Windows Mixed Reality (formerly Windows Holographic) headsets, though, the development kits use internal tracking sensors, which removes the need for external cameras or markers. Based on our previous tests, they’ll run on Windows 10 PCs with some fairly low specs — far more modest than the VR-ready standard for the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. We still don’t know all the details about the actual development kits, although Acer’s headset has a very decent 1440 x 1440 resolution per eye.
Microsoft’s HoloLens headset is coming to China by the end of this month
A year after Microsoft started shipping HoloLens devices to the United States and Canada, it’s ready to expand the holographic / mixed reality gadget to another huge territory: China. On stage at Build 2017, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman announced that HoloLens will arrive in China by the end of this month.Read Article >
The headset is already available in nine countries, but Microsoft sees China as “the world’s biggest market for virtual reality.” So far, Kipman said that “over 22,000 developers imagined over 70,000 transformative concepts on HoloLens.” HoloLens was Microsoft’s first huge (and expensive) undertaking in pushing forward its mixed reality ambitions. Now the goal is to push that technology into lower-priced headsets. To that end, at Build the company also demonstrated new motion controllers.
May 11, 2017
Microsoft's Project Emma is a wearable that helps with Parkinson's tremors
Microsoft has created a watch that the company says can help people with Parkinson’s disease write more clearly. The Emma Watch sends vibrations to the brain that help control hand tremors. Microsoft unveiled the watch during its Build conference. It’s only a prototype for now, but it could represent a hopeful step forward in using wearable technology to help those with specific conditions.Read Article >
Uncontrollable shaking is a common symptom of Parkinson’s, an incurable disease that affects more than 10 million people around the world and causes loss of motor control. The Emma Watch is named after Emma Lawton, a graphic designer with Parkinson’s who’s a friend of Microsoft Research innovation director Haiyan Zhang. Zhang created the watch especially for her. It has small vibration motors that send signals to distract Lawton’s brain from trying to create the tremors. This helps calm the muscle movements and makes it easier to write — an important skill for a graphic designer.
Acer will ship a $399 VR headset with full motion trackers this holiday season
Acer will release a Windows Mixed Reality VR headset with Microsoft’s new motion controllers for $399 during the holiday season, and it may not be the only company to do so. Microsoft announced the news when it unveiled the controllers at today’s Build keynote. While Acer is the only company named so far, Microsoft says multiple partners may be selling these controllers at retail during the same time frame.Read Article >
Acer is one of several manufacturers working with Microsoft on Windows Mixed Reality (formerly Windows Holographic) devices. It showed off an early version of its headset at CES, and a development kit without the controller will sell for $299 this summer, with preorders opening today. Like other Mixed Reality headsets, it uses built-in cameras to track users’ motions, instead of external sensors, and is tethered to a Windows 10 PC. This, along with its low price, could make it a more convenient option for people who aren’t interested in the often intensive setups that desktop VR currently requires.
These are Microsoft’s new VR motion controllers
Microsoft has announced a new set of motion controllers for its Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets. The controllers will be fully tracked by sensors in the headset, instead of by external cameras or markers. They’re supposed to go on sale this holiday season, with Acer selling a $399 headset bundle that includes them.Read Article >
Windows Mixed Reality controllers look similar to those of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. There’s a ring of LEDs at one end for tracking, then a panel with a round trackpad, analog stick, and menu button. On the body, there’s a Windows button and a side grip trigger. Unlike the Vive, where the tracking rings are laid flat like cupholders, Microsoft’s controllers have a vertically placed ring. It makes sense for something that’s tracked by sensors on your face, instead of towers placed around a room.
Apple is bringing iTunes to the Windows Store
Apple is planning to bring its iTunes desktop app to the Windows Store. In a surprise announcement at the Build developer event today, Microsoft revealed it has been working with Apple to get iTunes listed in the Windows Store. It might not sound like an important addition, but iTunes is one of the most searched for apps that’s currently missing in the Windows Store.Read Article >
Microsoft will also need to attract apps like Adobe’s range of creative apps and Google’s Chrome browser. There are signs that Chrome may never appear on the Windows Store as Google will need to rework its browser to meet Microsoft’s strict app requirements. Windows Store apps that browse the web need to use Microsoft’s Edge engine, and the current Chrome desktop app uses Google’s Blink rendering engine. Google could decide to create a new version of Chrome specifically for the Windows Store as it has done before with iOS, but it’s unlikely.
Microsoft wants you to use a pen everywhere in Windows
Microsoft thinks pens are the future of interaction. During a demo of the forthcoming Fall Creator’s Update for Windows 10 at Build today, Joe Belfiore, VP of the operating systems group, showed off how a Surface Pen can be used on a Surface Pro 4 to fully interact with the Edge browser. Users can navigate windows, write in text boxes, navigate, scroll, and select text while only using the pen. In addition to that, users can continue to rely on a pen outside of Microsoft’s browser. They can strike through words on Word or even annotate a PDF.Read Article >
More generally, Belfiore explained, Windows thinks the pen should provide a “natural, complete interaction.” Does this mean the end of mice or touchpads? Probably not, but Microsoft definitely wants to see more people using the pen across devices and all over Windows.
Microsoft's new cloud clipboard lets you paste from a Windows 10 PC to an iPhone
Microsoft is unveiling a new cloud clipboard service today at the company's Build developers conference in Seattle. While the software maker has been experimenting with a variety of clipboard services, it has finally settled on one that will be implemented directly into Windows 10. The new cloud-powered clipboard will let Windows 10 users copy content from an app and paste it on mobile devices like iPhones or Android handsets.Read Article >
Microsoft is making use of its Swiftkey keyboard to enable this functionality. A new tab will appear in the keyboard with a list of copied content from a Windows 10 PC. It's very similar to Apple's own Universal Clipboard that lets you copy content from a Mac and paste it into apps on an iPhone and vice versa. Apple's Universal Clipboard is limited to its own ecosystem, but Microsoft's cloud clipboard is designed to work across Windows, iOS, and Android.
Windows 10's new Timeline feature lets you resume apps on other devices
Microsoft is introducing a new Timeline feature for Windows 10 today. It's a feature that is designed to allow Windows 10 users to switch between multiple devices, including Android and iOS phones. Microsoft has built a Timeline view straight into the existing Task View feature for Windows 10 that includes an overview of currently running apps across Windows 10 machines and iOS and Android devices.Read Article >
Timeline will let you effectively pick up where you left off if you're switching between Windows 10 devices. Thanks to Cortana integration, this will even extend to some Microsoft apps on iOS and Android. It's really designed to be a quick way to move from one machine to another, much like Apple's continuity feature in iOS and macOS.
Fluent Design is Microsoft's new Metro UI for Windows and more
Microsoft is officially unveiling its Fluent Design System today at its Build developers conference, known previously as Project Neon. The software giant has been teasing changes to its Windows 10 design for months now, and it's now ready to detail some of the changes that are coming later this year.Read Article >
As part of the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, Microsoft is including some of this new Fluent Design System. Most of the changes include subtle additions like blur effects, which is a type of design we saw back with Windows Vista. Fluent Design System is designed to be the true successor to Microsoft's Metro design, and will appear across apps and services on Windows, iOS, and Android.
Microsoft’s Story Remix app is Windows Movie Maker on steroids
Microsoft is introducing a new Windows 10 app today that has been missing since the operating system's launch nearly two years ago: Story Remix. It’s essentially Windows Movie Maker on steroids. If you’re not familiar with Movie Maker, it was an app that let regular Windows consumers create cute little family videos back in the Windows XP and Windows 7 days. Microsoft ditched Movie Maker, but never really created a genuine replacement. Story Remix appears to be a true Movie Maker successor.Read Article >
Story Remix works in the cloud by collating images and video you use from any device. That means there will be a Story Remix app for iOS, Android, and Windows so you can grab content from multiple devices and work on your video. It’s similar to Apple’s new Clips app, but a lot more customizable and powerful. If you start a story on an iPhone, you can resume its creation on a Windows 10 PC and vice versa.
Microsoft's OneDrive Files On-Demand brings better sync options to Windows 10
Microsoft ditched its use of placeholder files in Windows 10 in favor of selective file and folder syncing, and Windows users weren’t happy. After more than two years on from that decision, Microsoft is announcing OneDrive Files On-Demand today. The new on-demand feature lets OneDrive pick out data from the cloud when it’s needed, without having to sync full files and folders to a device. It’s similar to Microsoft’s placeholder files, but it's not exactly the same.Read Article >
OneDrive Files On-Demand will only download files when you need them. Microsoft is implementing new status icons in File Explorer that show if files are available locally or if they'll need to be downloaded from the cloud. If you've opened a file online then it will be synced and available offline, but otherwise you'll still need to select entire folders for syncing offline or individual files. Any files you open will be automatically synced offline until you run out of disk space.
Microsoft announces Windows 10 Fall Creators Update
Windows 10 Fall Creators Update is the next major update that Microsoft is planning to release in September. That's not a mistake, Microsoft is reusing the same "Creators Update" naming for this next update, and it will include a new focus on bringing Windows experiences to iOS and Android devices.Read Article >
Microsoft is detailing its Fall Creators Update on stage at Build this morning, and the company is demonstrating four key new additions:
Microsoft Build 2017: schedule and how to watch today’s keynote
Microsoft officially kicked off its Build 2017 event yesterday, but today is the keynote you'll want to pay attention to. While Microsoft focused on the cloud, AI, and its various database and developer offerings yesterday, the software giant will reveal its plans for the future of Windows 10 today.Read Article >
Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore, and Alex Kipman will all be on stage today, and we're expecting to hear more about Microsoft's next major update to Windows 10, Windows Mixed Reality Devices, and some surprises in-between. Stay tuned to The Verge and our Microsoft hub for all the latest updates.
May 10, 2017
Microsoft PowerPoint can now translate presentations in real time
Microsoft is experimenting with a new PowerPoint add-in that will allow users to present slides in a foreign language. Microsoft executive Harry Shum demonstrated the new add-in on stage at the company's Build developers conference today. Presenters can download Microsoft's Translator app and sync it to a PowerPoint presentation. This link will then provide closed captioning on top of PowerPoint slides automatically.Read Article >
Microsoft's demonstration wasn't perfect, however. The translator failed to pick up Shum's Chinese several times, before eventually translating it successfully. Microsoft is previewing this new tool today at the company's Garage site, and it's hoping the translator is the latest tool to help eliminate linguistic barriers between presenters and attendees.
May 10, 2017
Microsoft shows how Cortana will work in speakers and cars
Cortana has been available on Windows 10 and the Xbox One for a while, but Microsoft has ambitions for its virtual assistant that go beyond traditional computers. And at the Build 2017 developer conference, the company gave us our first look at how Cortana works away from a computer in devices like the recently announced Harmon Kardon Invoke speaker and a demo car.Read Article >
Similar to its biggest competitors, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant, Cortana is able to perform the usual gamut of daily schedule reminders, travel plans, and simple queries. But Microsoft also showed how Cortana skills can be used to tie into office tools and apps, like a corporate timesheet system, allowing the assistant to more seamlessly hook into the services you use.