You need to know what's on the cutting-edge of technology. Find out what's coming and the unique Warptest POV with just one click on the "Blog" tile.

All posts in Microsoft

Satya we’re overdue for a chat about Windows Mobile

Dear Satya, It’s time we spoke about Windows Mobile.

Windows Mobile - Satya Nadella

It’s been a while since I wrote you. You’ve been doing great things, mainly in the enterprise arena but hey, earnings and stock value for MSFT are great. The accolades you are receiving are all deserved and fully earned. You’ve done incredible things as the driving force behind the new Microsoft. MSIgnite 2017 has been a rampant success so far again predominantly for the Enterprise.

That said, I and a couple of others (gross understatement) are concerned about Microsoft’s commitment to the consumer market. Whilst platforms live on, you’ve basically ceded the mobile handset market to OEMs and likewise with wearables and VR headsets. Microsoft has become a high quality, prototyping factory to drive the direction of these hardware markets and the OEMs who exist there.

I get it, I really do. Microsoft is not a hardware company. That said, ignoring the mobile market or killing what you have thru perceived ambivalence, benign neglect or marketer fear is not the solution.

Is Windows 10 Mobile in it’s current evolution nearing it’s end? It doesn’t matter unless like me you are a Windows Phone owner. Us Windows Phone owners are not the people you have to win over with the next evolution of Windows mobile strategy. That said, we are waiting, anticipating and serious about what’s next:

Windows 10 on ARM devices. We expect this to be a winning mobile strategy for everyone.

A Vision For Windows Mobile / The Warptest POV

I thought I should share with you all the things that are needed to make a disruptive reentry into mobile and win serious market share.

What does ARM and full Windows 10 mean? It means one OS (no RT, no W10M) with Fluent design and Cshell providing an adaptive UI for Windows, the OS and apps will actually be Universal. Allegedly the latest reports refer to this all as Andromeda OS.

This is nothing new for Warptest, the idea of a responsive OS experience has been pushed on this blog since 2014.

It means the idea of running full-blown 64 bit apps from a mobile device may come true. This doesn’t mean you have to shoehorn this into the enterprise niche but consumer and enterprise devices, why not?

A democratic PC in the pocket for all…

If Microsoft designs a handset to Surface design standards and materials and doesn’t compromise form factor or battery life then this might succeed.

Surface - Windows MobileImage of Surface Pro 4 with thanks to Microsoft

Any mobile device doesn’t just need killer design and materials. It needs a serious raft of accessories from brand names but, it also needs to compete in the AR/ VR / MR market against the expected iPhone, the Pixel & phones like the One Hydrogen. We need a Holophone.

Most of all the people like Joe Belfiore associated with Windows Phone need to progress up and out of mobile. Microsoft needs an aggressive new team, able and willing to evangelize to Developers and ensure deals with Twitter, Facebook and others for up-to-date features like FB Live, Periscope and frankly for Microsoft themselves to man up and deliver apps and features to Windows Mobile first. Keep in mind just how many features seen at the recent iPhone 8 / X launch event already existed in Windows 10 Mobile (if not Windows Phone 8.1).

I’m not telling you anything new here Satya, but it needs to be said and by association this strategy needs to be applied to VR and wearables, including a Surface Watch (not just a niche sports band). Microsoft can still win in the mobile arena and your loyal consumer base in mobile are one building block in this strategy.

When you are ready, get in touch and let’s win back mobile.

Windows Mobile Is Not Dead It’s Just Sleeping?

News and bloggers are gleefully reporting the death of Windows Mobile .. again.

Windows Mobile - Bullshit

In fact, Microsoft just announced end of support for Windows Phone 8.1, the version supplanted by Windows 10 Mobile.

The lazy, trollish and misrepresentative reporting has haunted Microsoft’s mobile platform throughout each of its evolutions.

This is not to say that Microsoft has not repeatedly managed to do a remarkably poor job of marketing the platform and their own flagship devices. Nor were Microsoft able to evangelize to the developer community to entice the same adoption as IOS or Android.

Microsoft has addressed the issue of app parity in the Windows Mobile ecosystem with the combination of the IOS Bridge to UWP, UWP apps themselves and Project Centennial to convert old-style Windows apps to UWP, there is still life in the brand. Redmond still needs to forcefully encourage as many apps as possible to build UWP versions.

As it stands, many Windows Mobile owners feel the benign neglect stemming from Redmond is a way of parting from the past of the OS while developing the rumored Surface Mobile Device;

Surface Phone?

The Surface “Phone” has been rumored to be designed for running full-blown 64 bit Windows apps; a phab form factor or the implementation of a patent for a foldable screen device that opens from phone to tablet seamlessly. One thing we know for certain, this device will maximize the full potential of Microsoft’s CShell for Windows 10.

Many believe the device is being held-back by a waiting game for the right ARM-64 processor and GPU combined with the latest alleged leak that the Surface Mobile Device will be an AR / VR/ MR supporting device… a Hololens Phone. This rumor is propped up by the allegation that brain-behind the Hololens, Alex Kipman is leading the charge to deliver this device, even though the head of Microsoft Devices is still Panos Panay.

HoloLens - Alex Kipman

One thing is for sure, Microsoft needs to get this right in terms of design, materials, feature set, spec, delivery and especially marketing.

Marketing this atop of the history of Microsoft’s mobile strategy requires radical strategy. Before all you ace tech reporters and bloggers dig Windows Mobile’s grave, check the facts and save us your hot air.

The mobile markets are ripe for a change. Go big or go home Satya.

MicrosoftEdu 2017 Is On May 2nd

MicrosoftEdu will kick-off tomorrow in New York and whilst the hashtag and event name indicate an education-centric theme many are predicting a big hardware announcement.

MicrosoftEdu - Event

For those who want to follow the Livestream, the begins at May 2nd, 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time / 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

The technology announced will focus on the education market which is a highly competitive market. Microsoft and Google (and to some extent Apple) are fighting over school districts, teachers and students. Until now, the focus was on learning platforms and productivity suites / apps with Google holding the upper hand in the device market.

Google Chromebooks make a great hardware solution for schools who buy into the Google ecosystem. Until now, Microsoft could only counter this with OEM budget laptops but these came with full Windows 10. An Intel Atom device with an SSD certainly gave more bang for buck but was it the economical choice?

What Can We Expect Then?

Microsoft are expected to announce new hardware and going out on a limb, I predict the following at MicrosoftEdu:

  • Microsoft Surface Cloudbook:
    • A Chromebook killer / competitor.
    • Highly portable but probably classic clamshell laptop style.
  • Windows 10 Cloud:

Windows 10 Paint 3D - MicrosoftEdu

The Warptest POV

If MicrosoftEdu delivers a hardware – software ecosystem designed for educators and students in Surface design then this will light a fire under the existing fight for this market.

A Surface Cloudbook for education must be aggressively priced to compete and win over schools on old-style LMS looking to upgrade. Things Microsoft should be delivering at MicrosoftEdu to seal the deal:

  • Cortana for kids and or integrated into Microsoft Classroom. Especially with app integrations like homework reminders from Cortana & child filtered research for projects.
  • A strategic partnership with a multimedia content platform that can compete with YouTube.
  • Early adopters deal bundling Surface Dial with the Surface Cloudbook and added cloud storage.
  • Mixed Reality for education: if you jump to the HoloLens page, directly below the intro video is a link to the MicrosoftEdu event. Why? What could be more natural than to leverage HoloLens and the OEM Windows 10 headsets for the education market?

MicrosoftEdu - Hololens

I’m ready to be wowed, how about you?

Microsoft Clip Layer Is The Latest Garage App…

Clip Layer is a great Android app from the Microsoft Garage, Redmond’s worldwide experimental projects lab that delivers a slew of interesting apps and resources.

Microsoft Garage - Clip Layer

The Garage is all part of Microsoft’s cross-platform leadership strategy, delivery apps to all mobile platforms. Clip Layer is one of these apps.

Why would Microsoft do this other than the reasons laid out in the link above?

Consider that Microsoft allegedly $5 to $15 on every Android device sold and

approximately $2 billion a year on patent royalties.

Nuff said?

What Problem Does Clip Layer Solve?

Android allows app developers a highly granular approach to in-app permissions. In this case the developer can disable select-copy-paste even at web view level. Along comes the app user and sees a vital piece of information and bang! No way to easily copy from the app and paste elsewhere. At best the user can take a screenshot but a graphic is not text.

Clip Layer allows the user to grab, clip and copy any text from any app, even when blocked. If the app is running, then just hit the home button to ignore those app permissions and copy that much-needed information.

A simple and elegant solution.

The Warptest POV

I hear those screams of outrage:

  • How dare Microsoft run roughshod over the app permissions set by other developers?
  • Worse, how is Google allowing Microsoft to get away with this kind of crap?

On the one hand, you’re right. At least until you are that user who wants to copy something and is blocked. On the other, Android allows developers a lot of freedom including geo-blocking apps which doesn’t stop users from changing their location to access the app (Microsoft has been known to geo-block their apps too).

I searched for specific criteria in Play Store Acceptance criteria officially making Microsoft the bad guy for circumventing copy blocking but, didn’t find it. Most people using this app won’t have nefarious intent, just a desire to share information. Why would you block that and why would you want to annoy your app users that way?

So, Android users take Clip Layer for a spin and see how it helps you. A modest award for the most creative use shared in the comments. Game on!

Microsoft Surface Has Meant One Thing Until Now.

When you heard Microsoft Surface, you thought of the killer Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book hybrid laptops, right?

Ever sat in a meeting with someone using one, walked past a store selling them? Likely they caught your eye because of the materials and design. The sleek lines, kickstand, detachable tablet – keyboard combo, spun magnesium body and the pen. It’s hard not to lust after the Surface laptops.

Whilst the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book were turning the world of laptop design on its head, Windows Phone and the Microsoft Band were making less of an impact.

Much has been written on the failure to seize market share by both these devices. Some written on this blog.

Windows Phone has evolved into Windows 10 Mobile and the Band 2 is no longer for sale by Microsoft. Both have been surrounded by rumors of successive devices: the Microsoft Surface (Panay) Phone and the Band 3. What is going on?

Microsoft Event 26th October

Wednesday in New York (tomorrow), Microsoft have invited us to see what’s next for Windows 10.

Microsoft Surface Event

Throw in the latest tweet from Microsoft’s VP of Devices, Panos Panay:

… and you can reasonably assume that in addition to what’s next for Windows 10 the Operating (eco)System, we are going to see new devices. Several weeks ago Winbuzzer reported that the FCC had approved a new Surface keyboard (and more) and most of the big tech blogs have been reporting that they expect to see an All-in-one desktop revealed tomorrow; probably called the Surface Studio.

The expectation is the Surface Studio will be built along the Surface design ethos in terms of materials, form and features. Full pen support, an adjustable desktop kickstand, the (previously mentioned) keyboard and almost certainly a matching mouse. Microsoft historically announces partnerships with software vendors to support new hardware so one can expect Adobe, AutoDesk or perhaps Unity3D to have something special for the Surface Studio. Microsoft themselves are expected to launch an improved Paint app.

It doesn’t take much research to find patents describing a modular, hinged computing device or a newer version of Continuum technology.

Microsoft Surface - All in one

Courtesy of US Patent & Trademark Office: Microsoft filings.

The Surface Studio aside, everyone has high hopes of hearing that Windows 10 Redstone 2 and 3 will incorporate features for connected IOT technology. The hot rumor is a Microsoft homehub feature in Windows 10 means a Cortana enabled home control device akin to Amazon’s Alexa.

Since no tech event would be complete without AR or VR, Hololens will be center stage with more apps and stronger Hologram integration with Windows 10.

Microsoft Surface - Hololens

The big question though is will the event address the future of wearable & mobile devices?

The Warptest POV

Most if not everyone believes that when Microsoft pulled the Band 2 from their stores that there will be no Band 3, even with rumors prior to this of a streamlined, waterproof sport wearable incorporating RFID and an EKG. The Band 2 was noted for its ability to measure VO2 without any unwieldy mask, but a sports wearable with an electrocardiogram seems something not to be given up on easily. I am not so easily convinced.

As for mobile, whilst Windows 10 Mobile continues to release improved Insider updates and several new OEMs have launched Windows Phones, there will be no new Lumia phones. That said, no-one is under the illusion that the Panay / Surface Phone will arrive. The rumors surrounding the Surface Phone are many, including the expected 32 / 64 bit app support. Doing so means desktop apps will run on this phone.

Microsoft are the only company to have a Universal App Platform, a bridge to port IOS apps and Project Centennial for turning desktop apps into Universal Apps. This means that a Surface Phone (assuming the necessary spec and size) is a serious laptop alternative.

If Microsoft has managed to minimize the Continuum Dock and incorporate it into this phone, then connecting it to any screen will make it full blown Windows 10.

Are Microsoft prepared to cede the mobile and wearable markets to the competition without a fight? No but they need a killer strategy, winning devices and hardware to support this. Why won’t we hear about a Microsoft Surface Phone or Band 3 tomorrow? Simply because the chipsets necessary for these devices are not ready now but also because ultimately Microsoft are somewhat loyal to their dedicated Band 2 & Lumia consumers. There is a transition period which will allow for a better launch for these new devices, both running Windows 10.

The most important announcement that should be made tomorrow is that Microsoft Surface is the brand name for all Windows 10 hardware made by Microsoft.

It should all be designed and made to the same standards, with the same materials and with similar ethos and feature sets. So yes, a Microsoft Surface Phone should have a kickstand and a magnetized keyboard like the Surface Pro. A Band replacement should be spun magnesium cased too.

The creation of a Universal Hardware Platform to match the UWP will make for a stronger, more marketable brand. A brand that is part and parcel of the Windows 10 Operating (eco)System that consumers and enterprise can get behind. A brand that will allow Microsoft to deliver a mature, competitive product in the mobile arena.

Want my annual bit of advice Satya? This is what I want to see from the Microsoft Event tomorrow. How about you?

Windows 10 Is Celebrating…

On August 2nd Windows 10 will roll out its anniversary upgrade. It’s big.

First, for all of you who fear the Windows Update, don’t. Do be prepared. From August 2nd until you get the Anniversary Upgrade check Windows Update to ensure it runs when it’s convenient for you.

Otherwise you can expect to see the “Don’t turn off your computer” screen as updates are applied, just when you are getting ready to leave work.

Windows 10 - Ned Stark

What Is This Anniversary Update Of Which You Speak?

Many of us remember Service Packs. Today Microsoft is deploying the major update to Windows 10 thru an Anniversary Update. This is 1 year from the official launch of Windows 10. The success of the Operating System is largely due to Microsoft building an incredible crowdsourced solution of invested consumers who chose to install Fast Ring or Slow Ring updates. (Fast having been through low level testing and Slow having been exposed to more in-depth testing before release to these Insiders.)

Those who chose Fast Ring were opting for early adoption of new features but possible instability with it. This is the next step after the end of the free upgrade to Windows 10 that Microsoft offered all year.

The Windows Insider program was for Windows 10 for Desktop / Tablets and Windows 10 Mobile. For those of you wary of installing the update here are three facts courtesy of Microsoft: –

  • Insiders have submitted over 8.6 million pieces of feedback.
  • Insiders spent over 443 million hours on Windows 10.
  • The Insider Program is now available in 30 languages.

The Warptest POV

I’m not going to get into all the details of what new features and fixes we are going to get. Reviewing an Operating System is lengthy, thirsty work. Once we all get the Windows 10 Anniversary Update I’ll deep dive the changes. Some of these changes were alluded to at BUILD2016.

The metrics above tell you one thing, this has been vigorously tested, reported on and had changes recommended not just by Microsoft employees but people just like you who work with Windows 10 every day in a variety of locales, jobs and languages.

We can expect big things from Cortana, the already awesome Edge browser is getting superpowers and if you have a Surface, from the pen and inking. Microsoft are not going to stop with this update though. Expect more greatness.

Windows 10 - Anniversary Ninja Catnniversary Update – Ninja Cat – courtesy of Windows Insider Program

If you take one thing away from this post, this is a big update in terms of size, install duration and impact. Don’t try to run this during prime work time or just before you leave the office.

You’ve been cautioned now get ready to be wowed.

Are You Officing In Office 365 Correctly?

This Officing tale may be a one you are familiar with yourself. Names have been changed to protect the less productive.

Tom had begun work a while back at a Tech based company. He had been hired to improve work practises and it was needed. People were working hard, but they weren’t working well together.

People were still using their computers like it was the 1990s; Tom knew that it wasn’t a question of just instituting change, he had to show managers like Lucy, Dick & Harry and their team members that there was a better way. Changing habits like this was not going to be easy…

Officing The GlenGarry Glen Ross Way

Office 365 is the cloud-centric productivity and collaboration suite. It comes with cloud storage in OneDrive or OneDrive Business (depending on account type).

OneDrive can be accessed in the browser, Windows File Explorer or thru the OneDrive app.

Don’t share files as attachments unless necessary; especially to multiple recipients. This is bad Officing.

Enable track changes, agree on using comments in the Office document and share a link to the document you are collaborating on.

Don’t save Office documents to Network Shares and then have multiple users all work on this file at once. This is bad Officing.

ABC - Officing

Office 365 is fully cross-platform. You can be productive and collaborative on the go.

Files and folders in OneDrive can be shared with other users either by sending them a link or an invitation.

Default permission of a share like this is “edit” but you can change this by user to “view” only.

Office 365 Business also allows structured wiki-like file storage in the same Cloud infrastructure thru SharePoint.

Users can define mail notifications for when a file is changed or updated in SharePoint.

All the Office 365 tools you use daily are available to use in the browser too.

There are several tools you may not be familiar with in the Office 365 Business accounts: especially Delve, Sway & Planner.

Sway and Planner are useful but Delve is an incredibly valuable service for personal collaboration analytics and actionable intelligence.

Facebook just decided they need to use Office 365 across their workplace. For its strong collaborative and productivity ecosystem.

Outlook in the browser is divided into Mail, Calendar & People: Mail has a “Like” button for when you want someone to know you agree but don’t want to get into pointless mails of “thanks” > “you’re welcome” > etc.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Microsoft introduced Office 365 Connectors several months ago allowing Office 365 applications to communicate with 50 (and rising) different 3rd party apps we all use in the workplace.

If you have Office 365 at home, you have a personal One Drive, Outlook.com email, Office in the web and these apps have built in Skype integration (some).

Got Windows 10? If Cortana is enabled for your locale / language & your workplace then you can use the virtual assistant in concert with Office 365.

Cortana is also available on Windows 10 Mobile, Android (Beta) & iOS … and there’s more. (Yammer, Gigjam (Beta), Skype / Skype for Business…)

The Warptest POV

We all use smartphones and rely on Apps for so much. Most of what we are doing is in the cloud. So why when it comes to productivity is it so hard to break our bad officing habits?

It boils down to two things: being aware that Office 365 has this vast potential and a collective willingness to but into this change in the workplace. Facebook are embracing this change with their adoption of Office 365 as their main productivity tool set in the workplace.

Are you ready to work smarter not harder? Get Officing folks.

 

Office 365 Delve Is Vital For Facebook Workers…

Office 365 Delve (formerly known as Project Oslo) is a center-piece for Office 365 in the workplace. This service is built atop the Office Graph. Office Graph provides actionable intelligence on workers connections, the shared meetings, mails and documents. The content discovery is presented through Delve. If you have Office 365 in the workplace then you should have Delve.

Facebook wants Office 365 and specifically Delve, and today they announced they are getting it.

All apps - Office 365 Delve

Why Does Facebook Need Office 365?

According to Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook the decision to make this leap is multi-faceted: –

  • Facebook works 100% online.
  • Facebook has multiple offices in multiple locations worldwide. Employees need the ability to collaborate in real-time on shared projects.
  • Facebook facilitates cross-platform for employees to maximize effectiveness.
  • several other reasons

Office 365 delivers all this and more. However, Office 365 Delve delivers actionable insights into how and with whom Facebook employees are collaborating.

Delve and behind it the Office Graph, deliver “personal analytics” but also a powerful social network for the workplace.

Facebook - Office 365 DelveWhilst Facebook clearly needs a productivity / collaboration solution the choice and focus on Office 365 Delve as a crucial service leaves major questions.

What are the ramifications for Facebook At Work? Facebook has invested in building version of their social network with a separate work login and a closed ecosystem for your company, using Facebook and its associated tools.

office 365 Delve - Facebook for WorkFurthermore, Facebook has both iOS and Android apps in each store to support this. Are there no Facebook Insights or Facebook Graph API adding the same kind of intelligence and personal analytics that Office 365 Delve does?

The Warptest POV

Facebook has made progress with Facebook At Work and it is in use in-house (allegedly this is how Mark Zuckerberg makes company-wide announcements). This is not the mature, versatile ecosystem that Office 365 is.

I’ve used the phrase force multiplier recently but none deliver this as much as Office 365 Delve. Facebook have wisely chosen to bet on mature, evolving applications that are only improving and adding more apps and versatility as time goes on. In past posts, I’ve shared an alternate vision for Google+ that would have taken it into the productivity sphere for companies instead of where it is today.

It will be interesting to see how Facebook integrate with Office 365. Perhaps this is the future for Facebook at Work.

Now throw into the mix that Microsoft is firmly embedded in Facebook and owns LinkedIn. Food for thought.

What do you think?

Snapchat, you know who they are, right?

What the hell Snapchat? GSMArena threw the world of Windows Phone all a tizzy this morning with the announcement that in a dramatic reversal, Snapchat are working closely with Microsoft to build an app for Windows Phone. To be fair, by the end of the post GSMArena mention in passing these are the unconfirmed comments of a member of Lumia Support in Spain.

Snapchat - Snapchat

Their CEO, Evan Spiegel has been notorious in his disdain for the platform in the past, and became the object of dislike amongst Windows Phone users for blocking 3rd party apps. Snapchat had cited security concerns as the reason for the ban, after their user database of 4.6 million users was hacked at the start of 2014. Many felt this was a convenient excuse and wondered why, when so many companies were capable of releasing secure APIs allowing 3rd party development, Snapchat couldn’t.

Snapchat - Evan Spiegel on Windows Phone

 Recently Snapchat have released an API that seems limited to their earth-shaking foray into the world of advertising. Why the possible reversal on Windows Phone now?

Satya Hit Snooze On Windows Phone…

Windows Phone has allegedly died more times than Kenny in South Park or Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow combined. Still the platform has clearly evolved from Windows Phone, the Lumia handsets (and OEMs) to Windows 10 Mobile. With Microsoft’s shift in focus to the OS and Universal Apps one might think they are all but out of the handset business.

With the rumors of the Surface or Panay phone coming, Microsoft are hard pressed to choose between marketing the absolutely fabulous Lumia 950 / 950XL. Especially as these may be the last of the Lumia brand. The Surface phone is expected to be a radical reimagining of Microsoft’s mobile hardware strategy, combining incredible design, the evolution of features like Continuum, Hello & Cortana. Most important the Surface Phone is expected to be a PC in your pocket. A handset capable of running 32 (possibly 64) bit applications.

With the announcement of advances in Universal Apps and a 32 Bit Desktop to Universal App converter tool at BUILD 2016, we saw how this strategy ties together.

The Warptest POV

No one is expecting the arrival of Snapchat alone on Windows 10 Mobile to suddenly cause drastic changes in market share. However, since apps like WhatsApp, Vine, Facebook (Beta), Facebook Messenger and many more are going full force into Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile with Universal Apps (WhatsApp is not Universal) perhaps, Snapchat woke up and smelt the coffee.

The market share being fought over here (or ignored until now) are the 300 million+ and growing, Windows 10 devices of all types.

Snapchat is huge, Hillel Fuld has told us this, Gary Vaynerchuk has told us this. So is it too weird or fantastical to speculate that Satya might want to buy Snapchat and this is how Windows 10 Mobile is getting Snapchat?

After all, Microsoft just bought LinkedIn and that blew our minds.

For similar reasons, to gain access to the customer database and then to resolve some of the issues Snapchat still has like user search, limited API, analytics (where the <redacted> are the analytics?) doesn’t it suddenly make some weird kind of sense? Microsoft could do all this… Still this is just speculation.

If Windows 10 Mobile gets a universal Snapchat app, many Windows Phone owners will be happy. Then the only major social apps missing will be Periscope and a personal favorite, ZCast.

So do you think we’ll see a Universal Snapchat app?

Cortana Is An Integral Part of Windows 10…

Cortana Mobile and Desktop plays a huge part in the strategy for Microsoft’s ecosystem. The intelligent personal assistant AI is part and parcel of Windows 10 Desktop and Mobile. In addition, there are versions available for Android and iOS.

cortana - android play store cortana - itunes app store

This makes Cortana the most wide-spread cross-platform AI app available today. When Windows Phone users heard this, there were many who feared that Microsoft were giving away the farm.

Jump Forward In Time

To BUILD 2016 and we are hearing about Cortana – BOT integration / Windows / Office integration. Shortly thereafter, Cortana (on Windows 10 desktop) started notifying users about missed calls in real time, with the user able to send a message back to the caller. That’s right: personal assistant, so it makes sense she should be handling your calls this way, no?

There is a catch. This feature is available to Windows Phone users who are logged into the same Microsoft account on their Windows 10 Phone as their desktop. Right now this feature is exclusively available to Windows 10 Mobile.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Warptest POV

As someone who spends a lot of time working on his laptop, and a Windows Phone user, I love this feature. Sending a potted or custom message from my Windows 10 laptop is a useful feature that allows me to respond rapidly and get right back to work. No switching devices.

Whilst Apple have gone the whole hog with making / answering calls from a Mac for the iPhone, I have no doubt that Cortana will receive upgrades and enhancements to this feature in the future.

Seeing Windows Phone exclusive features is a reassurance when many are wheeling out the tired old “Windows Phone is dead” rants. Since this feature is dependent on having the same Microsoft account on phone and laptop, it will be interesting to see if Cortana for iOS or Android ends up supporting this integration with Windows 10.

As predicted, Cortana is only going to become more versatile, more integral to our daily use of Windows 10 (and other apps). If you aren’t using her yet, you should be.

Here’s how you can learn everything Cortana can do for you. Get cracking.

Microsoft Productivity Solutions …

Microsoft Productivity Solutions are a crucial milestone for Satya Nadella’s reimagined company in 2016. The foundation for this was the plan to get Office everywhere, a move that began during the Ballmer days of Microsoft.

Since then Microsoft has flipped reality on its head by becoming the uncrowned king of cross-platform even bringing apps to iOS or Android in place of Windows Phone.

It’s no secret that the path to success is not walled communities or a locked-in, isolated ecosystem (you know I’m talking to you Tim Cook). Microsoft have already taken the next steps towards a productivity ecosystem that is open to conversation & interaction between their products and 3rd party services.

How Are Microsoft Enabling This?

What we are seeing is a 3-step plan to maximize productivity in workplaces that use Microsoft technologies like Office 365 and or Windows 10: –

  1. Office Connectors: currently over fifty popular 3rd party apps can connect and interact with Office 365.
  2. Cortana and Proactive Actions: at BUILD 2016, Microsoft announced that Developers could register to turn Cortana’s insights into triggers for specific responses.
  3. Flow and Power Apps: users with educational or work accounts can easily turn their data into apps and create automated workflows between apps and services.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This week Microsoft announced the roadmap for an overhauled, revamped Sharepoint with a strong cross-platform mobile, cloud orientation. The really big news about this is that much of the 3-step plan above will end up integrated into the new Sharepoint.

The Warptest POV

All this is more of the game changing plan introduced by Satya Nadella. This is creating a cohesive, unified experience where there is increased ROI to choosing Office 365 and or Windows 10 (especially in the workplace).

The automated actions between 3rd party apps like Twitter, Slack and Cortana or Office 365 are a logical evolution. Microsoft realize that there are web applications and services out there that deliver solutions they don’t.

What’s more enabling this is an incredible force multiplier for Microsoft productivity solutions.

All this grants us greater efficiency, improved collaboration and again, increased productivity through: –

Microsoft Productivity Solutions - Force Multiplier

Nor should we forget that Office 365 has another super-powered aspect, Delve. Adding all this external data to the mix is not going to decrease content discovery if Delve is enabled by your Office Admin.

Whilst Proactive Actions for Cortana are a developer oriented solution the other aspects of this plan are not.

All this places Microsoft productivity solutions at the front of the race for users’ hearts, minds and data. There are a couple of questions: –

  1. Will real-time data be transient (by default) when used by Microsoft productivity solutions?
  2. Will all this new data flowing inwards impact on storage requirements?
  3. How will this affect pricing models for Office, Sharepoint or OneDrive?

If consumers choose this model then it could spell and end to tolerance for Apple’s walled garden model.

Are you ready to dive in and maximize your productivity?

HoloLens Was Released as a Developer Edition…

HoloLens shipped to developers on the first day of BUILD 2016 and it played a mainstay in the Day One keynote. Previous demonstrations showed us a toolset for building holographic animations. At BUILD, Alex Kipman introduced a demo from Case Western Medical School, showing how they use HoloLens as an immersive teaching tool. In addition, the Galaxy Explorer app was demoed along with NASA-JPL’s Destination Mars app.

The multimedia content displayed looks incredible, as do apps like Skype on HoloLens.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Microsoft provide everything developers need to get started. The tools needed are mostly what developers already have aboard their PC. Developers don’t even need a HoloLens to get started, as Microsoft has created an emulator.

This is all true but what about creating photo, video and livestream holograms?

Creating Holograms, VR and Immersive Content

If you follow the race to deliver affordable, consumer technology for creating immersive content then you know that this is an open market right now.

We are seeing GoPro developing high-end and consumer rigs, companies like Luna with their ball-cam. Recently, Wired featured an article exploring how a Microsoft engineer created a Star Wars-like hologram of his daughter. Nutshell, to create this hologram of a person takes an array of 3D capture cameras.

The problem is a device like HoloLens is only as good as the ease with which you can get an immersive experience on it.

Many consumers may be able to afford a HoloLens but being able to setup 3D video or image capture to create holograms seems pricey and complex. When most people want to Snapchat, Instagram, Vine etc. there are not going to be comparable Holographic apps without affordable, easy consumer capture technology.

The Warptest POV

There is a flawed expectation, if we have incredible technology for photo and video capture on our smartphones that we will get the equivalent for HoloLens now. Work usage of HoloLens in many use cases relies heavily on 3D CAD or animation. Consumers are going to want to see their photos, videos or livestream video chat holographically on HoloLens. How are Microsoft going to solve this before HoloLens launches as a mainstream, consumer device?

  1. Microsoft created Photosynth to solve the issue of 3D capture and rendering from PC and smartphone. A HoloSynth version would allow a wraparound or full synth hologram.
  2. Dual lens smartphones are not entirely a new concept. Using dual lens cameras Microsoft could create stereographic 3D capture apps. (Surface Phone anyone?)
  3. Right now I’m experimenting with simultaneous image capture from multiple smartphones. Theoretically an app to sync the capture from several devices could also result in a render / synth solution.
  4. The rebirth of the photo booth. When was the last time you saw, let alone took photos in a photo booth? Now imagine Microsoft takes their existing 3D capture tech and creates digital booths. These could be in each Microsoft Store. This will at least allow you to holo-stream to HoloLens Skype or, take holographic photos and video.

Each of these have pros and cons. Cost versus compromises in image or video quality. The ability to create holograms from your smartphone using an app, even of lower quality add value to HoloLens as a consumer device and open up the potential for app creation.

HoloLens - Superman III Photo booth scene

A physical photo booth means going to the booth but this is comparable to using green screen technology. The benefit of paying once to create your holograms opens this up to anyone who wants to opt in but doesn’t want to buy the hardware themselves. Let’s face it, photo booths were cool and fun. This would also make holographic video and photos accessible for app developers.

It’s important to remember that HoloLens is in the early days of its journey to mainstream consumer use. This means that solutions to these challenges will come but not right away. It also means whoever develops software and hardware solutions for the consumer market stands to clean up nicely. It’s a safe bet to expect hologram sharing platforms, social and drone integration to name a few other directions.

Are you excited by the possibilities that HoloLens is offering us?