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All posts tagged iOS

ZCast Launched To Much Fanfare…

… and by fanfare I mean that ZCast rocketed to number 1 on Product Hunt within hours and was everywhere in the blogosphere. If ever there was a definition of going viral this was it.

To the uninformed, this seemed like an incredibly cool app with an idea reduced to elegant simplicity of design and implementation that just went stratospheric.

The truth is a crack team of incredibly talented people ploughed an amazing amount of effort, intellect and creativity into making this happen.

Disclosure: I’m friends with one or two people at ZCast.

What Is ZCast?

You can find the whole history of ZULA the startup right here. Back to this link later.

ZCast is an app that democratizes podcasting and allows your audience to interact thru Twitter. Podcasting some are asking, what’s that not in technobabble?

Podcasting is simply live broadcast, yes your voice shared with anyone who cares to “tune in”. In this case it’s done thru ZCast’s elegantly designed iOS or Web app.

So got a computer with a web browser? Got an iPhone? Either will do, you are ready to broadcast your thoughts, opinions and expertise.

The thing is, up until now podcasting just seemed like one of those things you needed technical know-how, a fancy microphone and setup to do. It wasn’t something open to everyone. Presto change, now it is.

ZCast - web app

Image from the ZCast web application (cropped)

ZCast - iOS app

Image courtesy of the ZCast iOS app store images

The strength of ZCast is you sign in with your Twitter account, click a button and you are talking to whoever will listen. How do you know whether anyone is listening? First, you get to see who is checked in and listening but also and here’s the kicker: you don’t need a switchboard or phones for people to call in, they can comment thru voice or chat. All you need to do is start talking.

The Warptest POV

Simple, elegant and clever. Comparisons to Meerkat or Periscope aside, anyone feeling introverted will have a lot less hassle ZCasting than they will going on livestreaming video. Probably I should have just ZCast this post, but I’m holding on for a bit. What for? ZCast is undoubtedly working on the ability to record your podcasts and publish them. This is an app that I predict will become an ecosystem in its own right. They have stated that they will be releasing an Android version and I expect them, like many others to leap on the Windows10 Universal App bandwagon at some point.

Enough about that, back to the link above, Hillel Fuld ZCast’s CMO shared their journey and very honestly, some ups and downs on the way. After reading it, you’ll probably realize what I did.

This is THE case study for startups who want to build up to a successful product launch. This is a story of really hard work but it’s also a story of how to build your momentum to success. As you’ll have read in this blog several times, I respect anyone who views sharing as empowerment.

 My hat’s off to Hillel, Farhana, Raz and all the team. One thing is for sure, ZCast gets a gold clad Warptest recommendation.

ZCast - Warptested

Get out there and get ZCasting folks and let me know what you think.

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 Cross Platform …

3 Words that didn’t necessarily come together in past years and yet over the last couple of years, the dominant player in all things cross platform has been Microsoft.

Windows Phone Microsoft Apps
Google Play Store (Android) Microsoft Apps
Apple iOS Microsoft Apps

Microsoft had already become a major app developer for iOS and Android, not just on Windows Phone. Since then Skype, the full Office suite (including Outlook) has landed on both platforms, OneNote, Bing search, OneDrive and others, and today Microsoft announced two more high-impact cross-platform apps: –

  1. Cortana, Microsoft’s personal assistant (already on Windows Phone and soon to be on Windows 10) will arrive on Android and iOS later this year.
  2. Windows 10 will come with the Phone Companion App which will allow your smartphone (iOS, Android or Windows Phone) to work seamlessly with Windows 10.

The various reports explain that Cortana will not have the full feature set available on Windows Phone for now.

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Are Microsoft Giving Away The Farm?

Some Microsoft users are acting shocked over the apparent desire at Redmond to take all that is unique on Windows Phone, Office, Windows or Visual Studio and deliver it wrapped in a pretty bow onto iOS and Android.

There is a feeling that any of the added value (especially) that Windows Phone had with Cortana et al is drastically diminished.

Firstly, everything that is happening is in keeping with Microsoft’s mission statement and ambitions. I was writing about this predicted trend back in 2012/13 here and here. In fact some might state that this agenda prompted Cyanogen to actively embrace Microsoft services on their already unique Android.

No one should be surprised about Microsoft making these moves to be a strong presence on every layer of consumer and business technology: frontend (Web, Mobile and Desktop), Productivity, Cloud Storage and Apps (OneDrive and Azure).

Now factor in a word that keeps cropping up on this blog ecosystem: Microsoft Cross Platform is about creating an ecosystem that is not limited by platform, device or Operating System.

The Warptest POV

Nutshell, I’m strongly in favor of this philosophy. As a testing professional, cross platform can be a nightmare to support. More browsers, more operating systems and versions can make for endless test cycles but looking beyond testing, Microsoft is competing across the board by building this ecosystem.

Apple continues with their gated community philosophy and Google continues to compete by restricting their services and apps from Microsoft consumers wherever possible. Microsoft has become a champion of Open Source with .Net, plans Universal Apps for Windows 10 ported from iOS and Android.

The real added value of Cortana on iOS and Android is not just the presence of Microsoft search, service or app on those devices: the Microsoft Band, Redmond’s smartwatch is the only fully cross platform device of its kind on the market and with Cortana integration this makes it a more attractive option for consumers looking for a smartwatch with apps, “AI” and phone integration.

Microsoft BUILD conference also paid strong attention to the anticipated stronger integration between Cortana and apps. It seems that Microsoft Cross Platform is about total coverage.

So to the people feeling like Microsoft gave away the farm, I suggest that someone in Redmond’s strategic business department is an avid reader of Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

What do you think?

Windows Phone Had A Big Splash At BUILD 2015…

…As mentioned in my previous post, Microsoft blew the crowd at BUILD2105 away by announcing that the Universal App concept would include bringing iOS and Android apps aboard Windows Phone.

Many speculators on the subject had feared the worst that Microsoft would opt for a kludge solution: running an Android emulator or VM even to allow native Android apps to run on Windows Phone.

Instead Microsoft included iOS and Android apps by allowing Developers to recompile their code as Universal apps, on all Windows 10 devices.

Means, Motive and Opportunity…

How is Microsoft planning to do this?

Windows Phone as part of Universal Windows Platform

The Universal Windows Platform layout with thanks to Microsoft Blogs

Microsoft’s vision for Windows 10 across devices allows iOS and Android apps in through Project Astoria (Java/C++) and Project Islandwood (Objective C/C++); these are the Universal Windows Platform Bridge toolkits for reusing existing codes from these mobile platforms with small code changes.

Islandwood already has a signup for interested Developers and cites importing XCode into Visual Studio whilst Astoria mentions publishing and earning via the Windows Store.

This is a much more elegant solution than the other option but, where does it leave the existing, dedicated Windows Developers, especially those working with the Windows Phone SDK?

Whilst the graphic (top left) shows that development on Windows Platform of Universal apps (Windows 8, 10 and even classic 32 bit apps) persists one has to think about this strategy.

Windows Phone and Windows 8 suffered from certain big ticket apps either not investing in the platform or deciding not to maintain their Windows Phone versions. Microsoft would annually announce deals made to bring some of these apps onto Windows Phone but Smartphone platforms live or die based on app parity.

It is a hard sell for teens to adopt Windows Phone with apps like Snapchat who not only refuse to develop a Windows Phone app but actively and aggressively block 3rd party apps. That said, over the last months whilst several apps (e.g. some US Banks apps) were pulled from the Windows Store there had been some very interesting apps released. One example is the Marc Cuban funded Cyberdust a Snapchat killer that released supporting iOS, Android and Windows Phone. IMHO this was a startup getting it right and I know of several others who are moving to Windows Phone in fields like social video chat, livestreaming and others.

The truth is that the app parity situation is not as cut and dried as many would have us believe.

In addition, Microsoft have opted for three major strategies of late:

  1. The Microsoft Lumia phones released have been designed to target lower pricetags. There has been no talk of a high-end flagship Windows Phone of late. This seems to be a strategy designed to flood the market with a greater number of low end devices.
  2. Much of the unique value proposition of Windows Phone was in Cortana and Office on mobile. Office is already fully cross-platform and Cortana seems to be heading for Android if not iOS too.
  3. Microsoft has leveraged itself as a major app developer for iOS and Android, and not just Windows Phone; in some cases these are apps not yet developed for Windows Phone e.g. Office Delve and PowerBI Mobile.

You can compare for yourself: –

Microsoft apps on Windows Phone

Microsoft apps on Android

Microsoft apps on iOS

The picture is a confusing one and it leads one to wonder what Windows Phone developers took away from BUILD2015.

The Warptest POV

After speaking to several Windows Phone Developers there are those who feel disgruntled after their strong commitment to development in Windows Phone SDK. They don’t necessarily see the ROI of continuing to work with the SDK when they can just write Android or iOS apps and then recompile them as Universal Apps. In a nutshell they stuck with Microsoft through the challenging times of Windows 8 and now one of them told me he felt “thrown under the bus for the greater good…”

The truth is that Microsoft needs to keep the faith with its existing Developer community as much as it needs to entice users with apps that are on iOS and Android (and their developers) but the question is how?

The challenge is not just marketing to individual developers but StartUps and Enterprise companies with apps too. These apps won’t just need recompiling but maintaining after the fact.

Terry Myerson of Microsoft discusses some of the challenges here but it takes one of the biggest Windows Phone developers, Rudy Huyn on his blog to explain why Windows Phone Devs shouldn’t feel that the ground has shifted under them.

In a nutshell, Project Astoria and Islandwood are not seamless and many of the APIs used in iOS and Android will need serious effort to work on Windows Phone. This is only the beginning of the journey and if anything, Windows Phone Developers just became a much more valuable asset in getting this done and as Huyn states, Developers are no longer Windows Phone Devs.. they are Windows Devs.

Ultimately, In the Game of Phones who is winning and who is losing? Users will benefit and so will the Developers and the App creators: Startups, individuals or Enterprise will end up with Universal Apps across a complete ecosystem.

The one factor unmentioned is what Tim Cook and Larry Page feel about this development?

Especially the notoriously draconian Apple and Google who doesn’t miss a chance to continue feuding with Microsoft (more often than not) when it comes to mobile.

So between all this and the fact that Windows Continuum for Phones will require new hardware, we can expect more new apps and almost certainly new, high-end Windows Phones from Microsoft.

In the Game of Phones nothing ever rests and Microsoft may have just won the crown if they invest in their Dev Community building and evangelism even more. Now, it’s time to do the same for the consumers to show why Windows Phone is worthy of them.

 

Microsoft Universal Apps…

… The concept of one app developed and working cross-platform: phone, tablet, desktop is something of a Holy Grail and Microsoft delivered on this promise last year.

With Microsoft Universal Apps a Windows Phone user is able to install the same app on their Windows 8 laptop / desktop.

Not all apps have released Universal App versions yet but many have.

Microsoft Universal Apps - Skype for Windows Phone

Microsoft Universal Apps - Windows 8 Store

Note the Universal App symbols for Skype and eBay in both screen captures.

Was this Just An Iteration?

When you are Agile you start to see iterations in everything but last week Microsoft released major news at the Connect (): event which made me think Redmond has a firm grasp of Agile process.

 

Microsoft Universal Apps - News Summary

Yes those are the faces of amazement because besides the obvious fact that Microsoft made its flagship core technology Open Source cross-platform and allowed non-commercial users to develop for free, Visual Studio just iterated into a platform you can develop apps for Android and iOS on.

In one flavor or another Visual Studio supports development for just about all the main platforms mobile, desktop and server.

The Warptest POV

If you are still singing the “Microsoft is doomed” song I suggest you go sit in the corner with your blankie and suck your thumb because that’s about as serious as anyone is going to take you now.

This is the biggest news in the development arena I can think of in recent years and in doing so Microsoft Universal Apps iterated outwards, fulfilling their potential.

Universal App no longer just means an App for all Windows devices, it may just mean an App that is truly universal. An App built across all devices and Operating Systems and developed in Visual Studio to boot. This could be the end of the Developers Grail Quest …

 

Microsoft Universal Apps - the holy grail

Microsoft Universal Apps - Visual Studio

The hard decision that many Start-ups have to make about which platform to develop for first seemingly just vanished in a puff of smoke.

So if this news excites you (and it should) then you can find the .NET Core 5 code here on Github that’s right, Microsoft really gets it, they are using Github for this.

So if you are a developer get excited and get cracking because the news here only scratches the surface.

 

Of The Several Windows Phone Conversations I Had Recently…

… The conversations ran the gamut of “Windows Phone has no apps…” to even “Microsoft doesn’t make a smartphone, come on”.

The phrase that best applies after demonstrating the phone and apps was suspension of disbelief.

Windows Phone - Morpheus

With this in mind I decided to list these apps here, you might recognize a few of them from iOS and Android too…

Yes, these apps are on Windows Phone too…

My constraints on this task were: –

  • Look primarily at branded apps i.e. apps created by the same company or brand.
  • List MIA apps or those still not on Windows Phone
  • Give special attention to noteworthy App developers who create 3rd Party versions of popular Apps.

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SPECIAL MENTION

Developer Rudy Huyn is responsible for bringing fantastic 3rd party implementations of many popular apps to Windows Phone ahead of the app itself arriving:

 Windows Phone - Rudy Huyn Apps

MIA

Zula App: the incredible collaboration / productivity app is rumored to be coming to Windows Phone.

AirBnB

Dropbox

Buffer: given the quality of 3rd part apps available to Windows Phone users, Buffer seems in no hurry to deliver their own app.

Instagram Hyperlapse

Google+ and other Google web services but special mention goes to the YouTube App for being a case study in how not to do things.

Get Taxi: they really need to play catchup with Uber who DO have a Windows Phone app.

Snapchat & Secret… well maybe we’re just fine without.

The Warptest POV

In a nutshell, there is much more to Windows Phone than meets the eye and not just the UI.

Windows Phone gets a strong Warptest recommendation as more OEMs are launching Windows Phones for all budgets, use cases but also for app parity.

So get out there and try Windows Phone for yourself and let me know what you discover….

Microsoft Socl Went Mobile Yesterday…

…On Windows Phone, iOS and Android. I’ve written about the brainchild of Microsoft Fuse Labs in the past, discussing the ROI of another Social Network and how the Socl team has been implementing features that show a strong understanding of what Social is all about.

Recently, Socl merged with Kodu (the Microsoft Kids game creation platform for PC and Xbox) to allow Kodu game creators to share their games through Socl.

Socl Logo
Kodu screen

A Mobile App

Once again the Socl team shows an incredible grasp of the need to launch on iOS, Android and Windows Phone simultaneously to maximize the mobile user base. Whilst all stats show Windows Phone is the fastest growing mobile platform there is a long way to go in terms of raw market share.

  • The Android App is available on Google Play here.
  • The iOS App is available on the Apple App Store here.
  • I installed the Windows Phone App from here.

Socl’s browser web app look and feel translates nicely to your Smartphone and from all reports I’ve read the Socl team did a great job making the UI/UX homogenous across each platform.

The features for creating and consuming content within Socl and for sharing to other Social Networks seem to have weathered the migration to mobile app nicely.

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The Warptest POV

At this point you may be asking yourself why Microsoft are making the leap into Social on Smartphones, if at all. The real question is, what took so long?

With Google making Google+ the central product around which your account works (e.g. YouTube comments now requiring Google+ ) and the socialization of the web, productivity tools and other aspects of our work and personal online lives it’s no surprise that Microsoft have their own Social Network in Socl.

Prediction: within the year we are going to see integration of Skydrive and Office Web Apps with Socl. The ability to create, collaborate, video group chat and work together on Office documents and or Photos will make Socl a cross-platform force to be reckoned with; assuming that with the app available on iOS, Android and Windows Phone it’s simply a matter of maintaining the rollout of new features on each platform.

Whilst Google continues to restrict, inhibit and lock down users subject to platform, Microsoft shows no such fear. Clearly at Redmond they realize the value of cross-platform support.

As an early adopter who has remained with Socl I’m pleased and impressed by the mobile App and my hat is off to the Socl team. The app looks great and is a pleasure to use.

Are you ready to take Socl for a spin?

Office 2013 live tiles

Tech blog The Verge broke the news today …

..That Microsoft Office will be coming to Android and iOS devices in 2013. Looks to me like they missed the big picture here…

Office 2013 live tilesIf you read the article and you are an Android or iOS user then that is good news for you.

If you are a CIO of an organization that has invested heavily in either of these platforms for your road warriors then that’s an even bigger slice of good news pie.

The question being asked by some is,

“Isn’t Microsoft shooting Surface and Windows Phone 8 in the foot doing this?”

The fact is if you are something of a Luddite and stuck on the idea of emailing attachments then yes this probably seems so to you.

The reality is that as important as proprietary, front-end devices are to Redmond, by allowing Microsoft Office to work cross-platform they are solving a huge strategic battle.

Microsoft Office will in one fell sweep unite all front end productivity devices, regardless of platform with the same Productivity Suite.

There are two strategic advantages here: –

  1. COLLABORATION – this has been the buzzword for Office and Office-like productivity suites since they went online. Now picture working from your iPad from home while another team member offshore collaborates on the same document from their Galaxy Note or Asus Transformer and yet another team member pitches in with their input from a Surface or Windows 8 laptop.
  2. BACKEND – whether you are already in the Cloud or moving that way the key phrase in the Verge article was “Office 365” and this is as much about Microsoft Office in the Cloud and the backend as it is the Office UI and frontend features.


When push comes to shove it seems to me that an organization of any scale with all its devices collaborating via Office 365 will be well served to use the included Sharepoint and Exchange / Outlook. Looking further afield is this an entry-point for Microsoft to leverage Windows Azure to these same CIOs to better serve all these Office 365 users?

Personal Android / iOS users already have some access to Skydrive via an Apps Page that has 3rd Party Apps and the Official Apps can be found here.

Apps for Skydrive

 In a nutshell, does it look like Microsoft has cut the knees out from under Google Apps? If the price is right then this may harken the end of Open Office and its kin but also see the demise of Google Apps too.

If you are an Android or iOS user will you be investing in Microsoft Office for your Phone / Tablet?