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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Going to Microsoft BUILD 2016 Is A Dream…

Instead I watched BUILD 2016 on my laptop on livestream via Microsoft Channel 9. BUILD is the developer conference if you work in the Microsoft ecosystem and is a conference that sells out usually within hours of registration opening. (Other livestream panels can be seen via the CH9 link from the conference).

After 3 days following social media it appears that Microsoft managed to cram a colossal amount of news into a 3-day conference.

The event began today and kicked off with a keynote speech from CEO, Satya Nadella, with him handing over the reins at different stages to variety of Microsoft personnel to present on their niche(s).

BUILD 2016 - Keynote Day 1 - Satya Nadella

The first keynote lasted 3 hours and some of the tech blogs predictions were accurate but as usual Microsoft were able to surprise developers and general viewers alike.

BUILD 2016 Keynote Highlights

The keynote began with Satya Nadella leading with his philosophy regarding the challenges facing technological advancement, social impact and the ramifications for developers. He added that the benefit of a conference for developers is that they come ready inspired.

After reiterating Microsoft’s fundamental philosophy of mobile first, cloud first and highlighting the mission statement. He cited both Azure and Office365 as mainstays of this, mentioning the recently announced Office Connectors and add-ons and the ever increasing value of rich semantic data that delivering Microsoft Graph would grant developers.

The first focus was on personal computing and Windows 10:

Windows 10 was described again as a comprehensive ecosystem of devices ranging from IOT all the way thru to Hololens. Satya Nadella then made first mention of a new emerging platform:

BUILD 2016 - Conversations as a Platform

Digesting Everything Announced at BUILD 2016

After spending some time digesting all the news from the BUILD 2016 keynote it was tough to wrap one’s head around all the news and how it fit together. The word that kept percolating through was evolution. Some of these evolutions have been ongoing until today but others are radical departures from the Microsoft of yesterday:

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  • EVOLUTION of Devices: Windows 10 is on over 270 million devices ranging from IOT, phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and the 84″ Surface Hub.
    • Terry Myerson discussed this and that OEMs are now producing more than 500 new Windows 10 devices. He announced the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, ETA in Summer 2016. The Anniversary Update will include radical improvements including Edge browser support for Windows Hello (biometric authentication) for web sites / apps that choose to support this.
    • Myerson handed over to the Microsoft king of presentations, Bryan Roper who demonstrated Hello in Edge and the all new, advanced Inking platform in Windows.
  • EVOLUTION of Mobility:
    • In March 27th 2014 Satya Nadella gave his mobile first, cloud first press conference. This was a pivotal moment for Microsoft where Nadella described the mobility of users and their data across devices. This has defined every step of the overall evolution of Microsoft since.
  • EVOLUTION of Personal Computing: HoloLens was front and center at BUILD 2016. The amazing untethered, holographic computer was introduced by Alex Kipman with the announcements that:
    • The Developer version of HoloLens was shipping as that day.
    • The HoloLens app competition had chosen Galaxy Explorer and it was both going live in the app store and is open-sourced on GitHub.
    • NASA will be letting visitors to Kennedy Space Center explore Mars using HoloLens with the JPL app, Destination: Mars. The app will have holographic tour guides, including
      & immortalizing Astronaut Buzz Aldrin.
    • Alex Kipman introduced a demonstration from Case Western Medical School of how they use HoloLens to teach medical students anatomy, physiology and more from an immersive perspective.
  • EVOLUTION of Man Machine Interface (MMI): the keynote mentioned evolving beyond the keyboard and mouse as our primary interface with Windows 10 devices.
    • This includes the Windows Anniversary update advanced inking platform. Bryan Roper demonstrated just how this would work with deeper integration, click the pen to access the Inking workspace, a virtual ruler, writing words like “tomorrow” when penned in sticky notes trigger Cortana reminders, ink on maps adhering to coordinates even when maps change from 2D to 3D, and a demo from Kevin Gallo of how to easily use 2 lines of XAML to integrate inking into your app.
    • Cortana: the personal assistant is now available on Windows 10, Windows Mobile, iOS and Android. In addition, Cortana will be receiving new features as part of the Anniversary Update including lock screen support.
  • EVOLUTION of the Desktop App: businesses using older Windows with custom software expressed reluctance to upgrade to Windows 10. This was out of fear that this crucial software would stop working:
    • Microsoft announced a solution for this, Project Centennial. This is a tool to convert existing 32-Bit, COM & .NET software into Universal apps, ready for the Windows Store. In addition to pure functional conversion, this provided store, Live Tile support and access to UWP APIs for these apps.
    • This was demoed at different stages with SAGE and Witcher the PC game.
    • In addition to pure functional conversion, this provided store and live tile support for these apps.
  • EVOLUTION of the Gaming Console: Xbox One is no longer a standalone console for game play. Fulfilling the mobile first, cloud first philosophy the Xbox is connected to Windows 10 devices:
    • Xbox developers will be able to set their Xbox to developer mode and test apps on the actual Xbox.
    • The demo and focus was oriented towards building apps for Xbox, not just games.
    • In an incredibly logical move, the store will become unified for Xbox and Windows.
    • The desktop app converter will also support win32 games.
    • The Xbox Anniversary Update will finally bring Cortana (as a personal gaming assistant) to Xbox.
    • DirectX 12 was demonstrated, displaying incredible performance and rendering improvements in games.
    • UWP apps are coming to Xbox from NASCAR, HULU, DailyMotion and Nickleodeon.
  • EVOLUTION of App Development:
    • Throughout the keynote the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) was mentioned multiple times, citing a 60% growth in app developers.
    • Terry Myerson announced new and pending universal apps for Twitter, Uber, Disney, Starbucks, Facebook, Instagram, FB Messenger and more.
    • In addition, Myerson announced that Facebook Audience Network SDK for advertising would be coming for UWP.
    • In addition to consumer apps, the massive adoption of Windows 10 in the business sector means the growth of business apps. This led into the onscreen demo by Boeing of their virtual flight-bag for pilots.
    • Kevin Gallo presented the improved, richer and more immersive design of UWP and GPU effects for apps.
    • Gallo also announced the release of Visual Studio update 2 & a preview of the Anniversary Update.
    • Rumors were confirmed of Ubuntu Linux’s BASH shell coming to Windows 10. Developers can run their BASH scripts from within Windows.
    • Xamarin developers were ecstatic to here that Xamarin would be integrated into Visual Studio and free. The runtime will also be open-sourced.
    • UWP and Xamarin mean cross-platform apps and full emulation in VS. iOS apps will be supported by a remote designer.
    • Microsoft announced releasing Microsoft Graph, allowing app developers to integrate super-powered actionable intelligence from the Microsoft cloud.
  • EVOLUTION of Productivity: Office 365 has garnered incredible adoption as the cross-device, cross-platform productivity suite:
    • Office has 1.2 billion users, 60 million Office 365 commercial customers and there have been 340 million downloads of Office Mobile Apps.
    • Office Connectors will allow seamless integration between Outlook and Trello, Slack, MailChimp, Asana, GitHub, Stack Overflow, Aha, Zendesk, Salesforce, Twitter and UserVoice (for example).
    • Starbucks announced during the event that they are integrating with Outlook to allow email distribution of their gift cards to one or many recipients.
    • Greater Cortana integration with Office, interfacing with Outlook. Developers were able from that time to access the preview of pro-active actions for Cortana. This is akin to IFTTT for Cortana, is an app connector.
  • EVOLUTION of Conversations as a Platform: Satya Nadella introduced this concept early in the keynote and after a brief semi-humorous mention of the issues Microsoft had encountered with Tay AI he went on to explain the enrichment of interaction / interface with our devices through Cortana and that the future was thru conversation. Not just human to human but also human to Cortana and human to Bot.
    • The example demoed first was bringing Cortana and or Bots into conversations in Skype.
    • Skype will be a fully cross-platform, smarter and more entertaining experience.
    • Cortana will be always present in Skype able to detect contextual data and react e.g. a conference invite accepted > Cortana offers to block off the dates in the calendar > detects the event location and offers to book a hotel > detects and offers to contact local contacts to inform them the user will be at the event on those dates > Hotel Bot interacts with Skype user to make the booking …
    • This intelligent interaction will be available for chat and real-time video.
    • Developers can receive access to the Skype Bot SDK.
    • Consumers will see Skype bots in Windows 10, iOS and Android
    • Skype for HoloLens was demoed also.
    • The Cortana Intelligence Suite, a new runtime would be available to developers from this point. This provides big data analytics and actionable intelligence on business data, combining this with machine learning and Azure cloud.
    • To facilitate developers integrating Bots seamlessly in their apps, the Microsoft Bot Framework was released. This is an open-source Bot Builder SDK, available on GitHub. Developers can code using either C# or Node.js to create intelligent Bots that can interact within Office 365, Skype, Slack or other applications.
    • Developers were granted a sneak peek of some of the new Bot features & controls including tools for natural language rules (suggested synonyms, shared dictionaries across Bot, machine learning and deep learning). Bot implementation is implemented in a highly intuitive UI.
    • To facilitate some of the “heavy lifting” involved, Microsoft introduced Cognitive Services. These APIs provide an extensive toolbox for developers who wish to integrate vision, speech, search, language and knowledge into their apps.

BUILD 2016 - The Bots are coming - Luthor

Image: with thanks to the “Superman vs Batman: Dawn of Justice” trailer.

The Warptest POV

Anyone following BUILD 2016 who has anything to do with development probably felt like a kid in a candy store. Whilst the points noted above were many of the evolutions available for developers to preview or use, this was not everything.

Two things were clear:

  1. BUILD 2016 is no iteration; this is a quantum leap in personal computing.
  2. Microsoft are doing everything to encourage developers, consumers and business into upgrading all their devices to Windows 10.

The rewards for doing so are the slew of tools SDKs and evolutions into new areas of computing. Users in every niche are only going to benefit from being on Windows 10 devices. The only sticking point is tertiary hardware and peripherals whose drivers aren’t supported in Windows 10. Time will make this a redundant issue as hardware is replaced.

The major news to take away from BUILD 2016 (and the ramifications for all users and competitors) are:

  • Conversations as a Platform: intelligent Bots and more.
  • Universal Windows Platform: one can assume that most if not all of these apps will implicitly be on Windows Mobile.
  • Deep Cortana integration: Cortana is only going to get smarter and more useful.
  • BASH on Windows 10: the world has not flipped on its head; this is really happening.
  • App Development has opened up in a big way, with incredible services available for developers to create rich, intelligent apps.

This is an incredible time to be a developer working in the Microsoft ecosystem. Apps are evolving from isolated into apps that can interact, share data and react to events and data from other apps.

Satya Nadella closed his BUILD 2016 keynote by introducing sight-impaired software engineer, Saqib Shaikh who had with his phone and smart-glasses created an app that uses advanced image processing and other features to let him see the world around him. The app interprets facial expressions and real life events occurring around him.

One thing is clear, Microsoft have not completed their quantum leap. Whilst there was not a major focus on Windows Mobile, one doesn’t have to think hard to realize that Microsoft is working on a major step forward. This is not just in design or hardware spec but, I suspect in a new hybrid device. This device will probably build on all these evolutions, Continuum and other services to take Windows Mobile in bold new directions.

You don’t have to be a developer to be thrilled and excited by the huge potential of everything announced at BUILD 2016. Are you ready to change how you interact with your devices and apps?

Are you an Office365 Productivity Powerhouse?

Office365 Productivity? This is not just the ability to churn out more documents. This is about maximizing the potential of you & your team. This is about ensuring freely shared information and an ability to deliver success.

What Does Office365 Include?

Depending on the pricing model you take, ranging from FREE up to Business Enterprise you get a slew of productivity apps: –

  • Outlook / Outlook.com
  • Free web apps & free mobile appscompletely cross-device / cross-platform
  • OneDrive Personal / OneDrive for Business
  • OneNote
  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint
  • Sway
  • Skype / Skype for Business
  • Docs.com – this is a personal portal for posting and sharing Office content you create. Users can give this a custom URL and the About section allows you to create a stylish resume in Sway.
  • (DELVE)

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So here are, “5 Killer Habits of Any Office365 Productivity Powerhouse”

  1. Don’t share files, collaborate on documents in real-time. Don’t discount mobile: Office365 is available cross-platform / cross-device. Exploit this to your benefit.
  2. Use track changes but agree how with your team
  3. Templates, styles, fonts, formats and naming standards. These are all document UX, it should be consistent across a project. It should look good in print or cross-platform.
  4. Email, skype calls, IM & video calls they are all calls to action. Communication is either shared information, request for action or a change notification. Either way, respond constructively.
  5. Office365 productivity is limited by knowledge. Most people never maximize their knowledge and so, restrict their productivity. Create a list for yourself of things you should know in Office365 and learn one a week. Examples: WORD / EXCEL: Macros, WORD: using and creating structured templates and styles, EXCEL: pivot tables, formulas, web queries, data filtering and mastering, POWERPOINT: creating short, succinct and well-designed presentations, & more…

Office365 Productivity - 5 Killer Tips

The Warptest POV

Office365 is cloud first, enabling collaboration and maximum productivity and the apps available are always evolving and for the business user we can expect added features and apps:

  • Office Groups
  • Office Mix: Mix for PowerPoint is targeted at educators to enhance their classroom presentations but is available to everyone.
  • Planner: A collaborative Agile style, post-it task / project management tool based on Office Groups. Available for selected Office plans.
  • PowerBI: If data visualization and analysis was a superpower it would probably look like PowerBI
  • And more…

General productivity is increased by choosing an ecosystem that everyone can work with. An ecosystem where the apps can communicate with each other. Else, you are just looking at technical debt to transfer information between apps or formats. The aim is zero technical debt, maximum time spent on projects, tasks and collaboration.

There are exceptions based on use case where you need to move outside the ecosystem you’ve chosen but since Office365 allows for building customized solutions this is accepatable.

Office365 is all about productivity and collaboration and it exemplifies the cloud first ethos being pushed by Microsoft. The only barrier to becoming an Office365 Productivity powerhouse is your willingness to try.

Are you ready to be productive with your team?

What’s under the Skype umbrella?

Under the Skype umbrella? Let’s take a look and see what’s there, what’s not and what should be.

Instant messaging is a hot prospect in a variety of cases. Users want cross-device support, the ability to do more than just text. How does Skype weigh up since I examined it and offered some strong suggestions four years ago?

The state of the Skype umbrella:

Skype has been evolving, slimming down, experimenting:

Particularly interesting are Skype for Web, Skype integration with Outlook.com and Office Web Apps, Mojis & group video chat …

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With the rebranding last year of Lync as Skype for Business we knew to expect improvements adding to Skype’s competitive advantage including:

Office 365 integration, Outlook and Calendar integration for scheduling, Office Enterprise (E5): PSTN, cloud PBX, group meetings, Skype casting to 10K attendees with polls and Yammer integration.

Microsoft didn’t waste any time on directions for Skype they saw as not delivering on their potential. Some platforms, features and spinoff apps ended up in the Deadpool too:

Skype umbrella - not that Deadpool

No, not that Deadpool. Image clipped from the official trailer.

  • RIP Skype API certain features were deprecated but if you want to build 3rd party solutions on top of Skype then this is where to start. I’ve used Skype URIs to start a chat from an Outlook appointment or task but that is by no means more than the most basic of use cases.
  • RIP Modern UI Skype app
  • RIP Skype for TV in 06/2016
  • RIP Skype Qik

The Warptest POV

Looking back one can ask if this was the app / acquisition that brought Microsoft into the cross platform arena? Since then, it seems that Microsoft has developed an appetite for messaging apps.

First they had MS-Messenger, then there was Skype, Lync, Yammer and now the rumored push to acquire Slack which didn’t move forward.

What should we expect or be asking Microsoft to add under the Skype umbrella?

  1. Right now it seems that Skype, Skype for Business and Yammer have no shared code base. Microsoft are developing three associated products, delivering different solutions under the Skype umbrella.
  2. Skype integration into Outlook and Office desktop (Business or Personal – defined by Office365 plan) but more important integration with Delve and Office Graph.
  3. Slack has managed to gain enormous traction not just through UX but also due to the app integrations they offer. Skype needs to make rapid inroads here.
  4. One-click screen capture: No one wants to click <Windows> + <PrintScreen> then go find the screen capture. If Edge Browser can incorporate this, why not Skype?
  5. Single person tagging in a group conversation that sends an alert / ping just to them. “Hey @Bob, did you finish that quote?” … Bob gets the ping and responds.
  6. Use Office Groups (in personal Office and Outlook.com) to have one click pre-titled group chats, video chats or conference calls.
  7. Record all Skypes: group chat / call (mp3) / video (mp4) and upload to OneDrive or Sharepoint.
  8. Live streaming from in Skype (or a separate app). Periscope is integrating with Twitter, the biggest obstacle to live streaming is psychological, introversion not technology. The use cases for personal and work live streaming are vast.

For Skype to progress, the philosophy needs to be more cloud, more integration and unification of the different solutions under the Skype umbrella. The costliness of maintaining disparate code, teams and other logistics for Skype, Skype for Business & Yammer far outweighs the ROI on making this one product base.

The tighter integration with Office shows that Microsoft understands the holistic part Skype has to play in productivity / collaboration better than say Google+.

As of now, I’m confident Skype is moving in the right direction and I’m giving it a strong Warptest recommendation. How about you?

Skype umbrella - Warptested

Microsoft Think Next 2016 …

Microsoft Think Next 2016 wasn’t just the annual pilgrimage as this year was the 25th Anniversary of Microsoft opening the R&D Center in Israel.

You’re probably asking yourself a crucial question though…

What Is Think Next?

As mentioned in previous years, Microsoft Think Next is the annual show and tell of cutting edge, in-house innovation, several startup graduates of Microsoft Israel’s Accelerator program and others working within the  Microsoft ecosystem.

It is also involves a keynote and presentations. Demofest is the show and tell part and it was a truly incredible display of technology, innovation and disruption; ranging from the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Surface Book to the BBC Microbit, a robot that can pick apples off a tree, various medical related startups and much more:

 

Microsoft Think Next 2016 - Demofest

If you want to see the full list or get more information click the graphic

 

I got to go hands on with the Surface Pro 4, Surface Book, connect my Windows Phone 950XL to a Continuum dock and more. A measure of the interest in these startups and Microsoft’s own products were the large groups of people around each station waiting to meet the product owners / founders and hear all about their products.

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Each of these startups was Israeli born and bred, and much of the Microsoft technology on display was developed to some degree in the Israel R&D center. Not for nothing, the Startup Nation.

The Keynote, Presentations And A Surprise Guest

The presentations kicked off with an introduction from Zack Westfeld & Dana Porter Rubinstein (senior members of Microsoft Israel). Yoram Yaacovi followed (General Manager of Microsoft Israel), and then a congratulatory video message from Bill Gates. This led into the keynote by Satya Nadella, followed by presentations from 3 incredible speakers, each e impacting the lives of people worldwide.

  • Dr Jasmin Fisher of Microsoft Research, Cambridge gave an awe inspiring speech on the now and future of cancer mapping research.
  • Gerald Jay Sanders, the CEO of SkyTran Inc presented his vision for high-speed, rapid transit. Sanders explained how he, NASA and Israel Aircraft Industries are working together to create magnetically propelled elevated (or not) capsule or bullet trains. The word train does not do this justice, hit the link for SkyTran and see for yourself.
  • Dr Raz Itzchaki Tamir , the CEO of SkyFi explained his vision of bringing worldwide, affordable communication coverage thru a network of mini-satellites.

Not for nothing do people attribute the incredible change to Microsoft to CEO, Satya Nadella. He is clearly an inspirational leader with a vision for where he wants to take Microsoft. His keynote delivered with several exceptional quotes:

Microsoft Think Next 2016 - Bill Gates

Microsoft Think Next 2016 - Satya Nadella Keynote

“There is no doubt that a country like Israel is going to change the world.”

(Borrowing from Hololens about Think Next) “When you change the way you see the world; you change the world you see.”

Here is a sample of the impact Microsoft Think Next and particularly Satya Nadella’s comments made (via Twitter)

The Warptest POV

I came to Microsoft Think Next 2016 with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. The Microsoft Accelerator Startups demonstrated a variety of game changing products, as did Microsoft. It was difficult to give back the Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book I tried out.

The atmosphere was beyond optimistic, beyond enthusiastic. Microsoft Israel’s team of employees brought their A-game and mingled, demonstrated and provided a fantastic event. Microsoft Think Next 2016 is the best Think Next yet. Besides all this, Think Next is a great networking opportunity and it certainly didn’t disappoint for this either.

Yoram Yaacovi spoke in detail about the variety of new jobs descriptions being created by new innovations. One of several examples he gave was the need for skilled divers to maintain Microsoft’s new undersea data centers. This combined with Satya Nadella’s keynote outlines a glowing future for Microsoft and especially Microsoft Israel that is happening in the now.

It certainly helped me to start changing the way I see the world. How about you?

Many thanks to Microsoft Israel R&D and the person behind their Twitter account for all the help before and after the event. They were kind enough to provide some corrections to mistakes in the original post.

Windows Phone Is Alive Despite It All…

… Windows Phone is alive, regardless of a week where many declared it dead… again. The last Warptest post looked at some of the BS being reported.

During the day, the post prompted some disagreement which led to much discussion.

You Won’t Believe What Happened Next.. On Facebook

One of my friends leapt right into the fray to discuss this last post and my conclusions and this triggered several thoughts:

Windows Phone Is Alive - Facebook

The big problem with any metrics is they are hugely prone to misinterpretation out of context or people have a causation bias. In this case, I remembered just how hard it was to order one of the new Windows Phone 950 / 950 XL’s since their launch and there were repeated stories about limited numbers in the stores.

  1. So Q4 of 2015 did have lower numbers of devices sold, allegedly because less new devices were available.
  2. The next equally important point was OEM buy in. Since Windows 10’s launch the OEMs had been going wild announcing new Windows Phone devices. Several were seen at CES but weren’t available yet for consumers to buy. These are coming to market in Q1 / Q2 2016.

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Here are links to the 3 phones shown above (and there are more):

So we have two major factors skewing the numbers there. Meanwhile Windows Central were realizing that their numbers were a source of some of the malarkey going on and so they released a post clarifying the issue and providing some serious context.

Hat tip to Windows Central for taking responsibility here. The title of the post “The journalist’s guide to reading tea leaves aka AdDuplex Windows Phone Stats” is a lot nicer than many people deserve for the FUD they spread.

The Warptest POV

Little did I know earlier today that both Xiaomi and Sony were going to be in the news today as additional OEMs launching Windows Phones. Xiaomi are expected to launch a Windows 10 version of their Mi-5 handset and Sony are expected to announce a Windows Phone 10 addition to the ultrasleek Vaio line (at long last James Bond may get a Windows Phone in the next movie).

That’s right folks, yet more OEMs buying into Windows Phone. What do they know that we don’t?

I’m waiting on several mainstream startups with huge popularity to deliver Universal Apps onto Windows Phone and I know of a few others working on migrating their iOS apps thru the Microsoft iOS Bridge project. Discretion being the watchword here, all I can say is watch this space for when the news embargo lifts.

Let’s boil this down: there’s a bunch of bloggers out there who should be asking themselves if they did right by Windows Phone & the people who worked on building the platform. These posts had an impact on consumers who were considering Windows Phone. I was contacted by several people about this today asking if they should not be moving to Windows Phone. After answering their questions and scheduling with one to come try my phone, I told them simply, “Windows Phone is Alive.”

“It’s alive..” with thanks to Young Frankenstein via YouTube.com

At the end of the day, Windows Phone is alive. Seeing what comes next is the exiting part.

Windows Phone. Reports of its demise …

… regardless of “Windows Phone is Dead” trollgasms, the only thing that seems to be dead is the concept of solid journalism.

The Road So Far…

A couple of weeks ago rumors of Microsoft rebranding Lumia came out. Long overdue but still just a rumor. The association between the Lumia brand, the Nokia acquisition and its negative consequences for Microsoft should have made this a top priority months ago.

The origin for all this seems to have been the rumored launch of the Lumia 650 and it allegedly being the last Lumia phone. It seems the sloth-like, the indolent and those who simply didn’t care read the headline and couldn’t be arsed to look any further.

Last week Windows Central reported the revenue numbers for Windows Phone as part of a post on Viewing Windows Phone in its Proper Context again we saw a slew of posts proclaiming the death of Windows Phone.

Windows Phone - Dead Not

One of the “favorites” doing the rounds is Forbes post on Ruthless Microsoft’s Smart Decision To Kill Windows Phone. If you can find a link to any announcement from Microsoft in this post, if you can find one verifiable fact then I’d love to see it. This is a speculation post based on unconfirmed rumors spun out of more rumors. Not even a “We reached out to Microsoft for a comment…”

Other rumors being ignored by many of these gleeful posts (but not all) are that this is not just rebranding but that Redmond’s Windows Phone will be rebuilt as a Surface Phone. During this interview the hints were there to be heard from Chris Capossela, Microsoft CMO.

Akin to Mark Twain, Kenny from South Park or Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, Windows Phone is frequently reported dead when it simply isn’t so. Why is that?

The Warptest POV

Windows Phone has died more deaths than even Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow and yet each time it bounces back from its reported demise.

 

Windows Phone - Awesome 950XL

Nutshell, these are incredibly well made phones, with a kick-ass OS and as I’ve stated repeatedly, with Universal Apps the world is their oyster. Microsoft clearly has a mobile strategy and it being multi-pronged doesn’t exclude Windows Phone. The first steps to the next evolution of Windows Phone are already there in Windows 10 Phones like the 950 or 950XL with Continuum, Hello and other features, if you actually look.

Imagine a market where these phones and features were never designed less realized, because the market listened to the trolls. This is a market that lost stimulus to innovate and compete. Why would you encourage that?

Be assured, Windows Phone may not be a Lumia, it may be a hybrid device made to be a phone but also to run 32 Bit apps (unconfirmed rumor) and it may be designed to emulate the Surface design but there will be a reimagined Windows Phone later this year.

If Microsoft designs, builds and markets this device right, it will be a device that does things no other device can do.

So my advice is don’t dismiss Windows Phone, it’s a name for a class of devices. Dismiss the trolls and go see for yourself. Most people who go hands on for the first time are simply impressed.

Microsoft, time to bring you’re A game.

The Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard …

The Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard has arrived and today I unboxed it and took it for a test drive. It retails for $99 on the Microsoft US Store, uses Bluetooth and can pair with two devices on iOS, Android or Windows devices.

Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard - dimensions

The link above also had updated drivers for connecting the keyboard to Windows 10 (32 and 64 bit).

Unboxing…

The Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard is all about a perfect marriage of design and function and this starts with the box. Gone are the days of excessive boxing. Microsoft has designed the box with a Surface ethos, the box and the keyboard close magnetically.

Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard - box closed

Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard - box open

Once opened, the instructions are on the inside face. Ikea et al, see these instructions and learn. One day all instructions will be this way.

The keyboard works simply and elegantly, open is on and closed is off. It’s light, portable and the tactile response of the keys is as good as the keyboard on a Lenovo Yoga or Asus laptop. Folded it’s probably slimmer than the wallet in your pocket.

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The Warptest POV

The Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard is elegant in its design, sturdy yet sleek. It’s made for one thing and one thing only, for the road warriors, those urban commuters for whom space is a premium when travelling but those who need a physical keyboard.

Every single person who tried this today fell in love with it on first touch. I have thick fingers and so my concern was obviously this wasn’t going to work for me. I may never be a violinist with my hands but I can make this keyboard sing.

One of my testing team took the phone in the photos above, my Lumia 820 and walked thru our offices while I typed all the way to the front door of our offices, about 35 to 40 meters and was amazed to report my typing kept coming thru. Now I doubt I’ll ever need a use case like that but it was impressive.

If you need a portable keyboard, then the Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard is the one for you. Of course, no kickstand on your iPad, Android, or other device. You’ll need more than two hands or some kind of MacGyver solution.

 

This ad has nothing to do with this post but hey, kickstands.

I’ll be doing a follow-up when the Lumia 950XL arrives with its kickstand case.

So if the plane, train or bus is how you get from A to B and you need to just keep on typing, then go checkout the Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard and let me know what YOU think.

Microsoft Continued Its Mobile Strategy…

… Last week and it’s a smart one. For those who didn’t notice or comprehend the ramifications, Microsoft announced that CyanogenMod would include Cortana aboard.

Microsoft - Cyanogen meet Cortana

Neither Cyanogen nor Microsoft have hidden the aim is a robust Android ROM with Google services removed and Microsoft services in their place.

Prior to this, first versions of Cortana were available as installable apps for Android and iOS. Cortana is going head-to-head with integral OS services Google Now and Siri.

Microsoft Mobile Services…

Redmond might arguably be one of the largest app developers for Android and iOS.

Besides Cortana and Skype, it’s Office, OneDrive, PowerBI, Outlook and much, much more.

This all lends credence to Satya Nadella’s point a few weeks ago, that handset or OS marketshare is a poor metric.

Where Does This Leave Windows Phone?

Windows Phone with Windows 10 aboard is a revitalized platform itchin’ to get in the fight. The new
Lumia 550, 950 & 950XL are experiencing strong reviews. The new features of Continuum & Hello are garnering praise and OEMs are investing in their own diverse handsets. Meanwhile we have rumors of a Q2 2016 Windows Phone high-end device that is a Surface phone, or the next best thing to it.

With the delivery of Windows Universal Apps, we are seeing more popular brands in apps, services, hardware, gadgets and Internet of Things buying in.

Windows Phone is finally delivering on its promise.

The Warptest POV

I have mixed thoughts about Cyanogen. Is this part of a multi-pronged strategy where Microsoft continues with Widows Phone, delivers Android with Windows Services built in and keeps delivering great apps to iOS?

Or is Cyanogen a predictor? Has Satya Nadella setup a paradigm where if Windows Phone doesn’t deliver, he’ll decide the future is 100% Windows Services on Mobile and kill Windows Phone?

The canary in the coal mine: if we see an acquisition of Cyanogen by Microsoft in the next 18 months.

I personally opt for the multi-pronged strategy, for many reasons that I give in a post last week, explaining why Scoble is wrong in his attitude towards Windows Phone. (especially the rumors about Surface phone capabilities). In the meanwhile, my advice to Microsoft regarding the Lumia 950 and 950XL:

Get a brushed magnesium case out there with a kickstand for these phones.

You know why it’s a winner.

If Microsoft gets this right, it won’t matter which Mobile OS you opt for (home user or business), you will be seamlessly productive on every device you use, regardless of OS.

Ultimately all devices will be Windows devices and to paraphrase Bryan Roper at IFA2015,

Microsoft - Bryan Roper

Now, what do you think?