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All posts tagged Microsoft

Chromebook will run Android Apps. That’s right.

Chromebook will be able to connect to the Google Play Store and install Android Apps. This was big news on the Google Chromebooks blog on May 16th 2016 and then we didn’t really hear about it again until CES 2017 last month.

The news at CES was about specific Chromebooks supporting this feature: the Samsung Chromebook Plus / Pro & the Asus Chromebook Flip to name two.

Chromebook getting Android Apps - First News

Not All Chromebooks are created Equally

CES showed us that if you are thinking of buying a Chromebook, and you have an Android phone, then you are going to want to examine carefully which of the new Chromebooks are going to support this feature. (I find it hard to imagine an iPhone owner with a Chromebook but stranger things have happened).

Furthermore, this might not be an out-of-the-box feature; according to the official pages of the Chromium project only 3 Chromebooks currently support this (although there is a list of those which will support it in the future, sort of an Ikea “coming soon” ticket).

To get the feature, your Chromebook may need to work in Developer mode. After testing this on a brand-new Lenovo (intel inside) Chromebook, I could enable this thru Developer Mode and access the Google Play Store once but since reboot I have not been able to replicate the scenario. Since then, I discovered this how-to from Google which means retesting this.

Chromebook - Android App Play Store

The Warptest POV

This is a bold and sensible move by Google. Running Android apps on Chromebook is going to make for an interesting and more competitive market. Android phone owners are finally going to have one more reason to make their main productivity device a Chromebook.

Will Android apps run in virtual machine or emulator like Google’s Arc Welder? If not, then Android apps are going need to look and act different from a floating phone / tablet app on a laptop screen. This implies that the next major release of Android Studio will allow Developers to build one app for both platforms with responsive UI. For now, the instructions on optimizing your Android apps are here.

Sound familiar? It should because this is the foundation of Microsoft’s UWP. The Universal Windows Platform has allowed Microsoft Developers to build once and deploy across device types. Admittedly the Microsoft suite of devices is more diverse but this has been a pivotal part of their success.

Chromebook - Android Apps sounds like UWP

Is this another knock Google for copying Microsoft post? No. A recurring theme in this blog is that competition stimulates innovation and emulating ideas is at worst a homage. Why reinvent the wheel?

Can Google emulate this success? Will this push greater Chromebook adoption amongst Android phone owners?

Will Android developers see the value of investing in building “Universal” Android Apps or not? What do you think?

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.

LinkedIn and Microsoft, That’s Right.

LinkedIn just accepted a hefty $26.2 Billion from Microsoft for their acquisition. This has left techies, bloggers and astounded and scrambling to understand what just happened.

How much?!??

;

What Is LinkedIn?

All you have to do is jump over to LinkedIn’s About page:

LinkedIn - About Page

Nutshell, Microsoft just acquired “the world’s largest professional network with more than 433 million members in 200 countries.”

Start from the data, connections and analytics available. Now think about your connections. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the value of this kind of big data set. Do the math, how much Microsoft paid against the number of users…

What will Microsoft do with LinkedIn? We can expect UX refinements in iterations but not a sudden drastic change. Will LinkedIn end up with New Windows UI? Probably down the line.

LinkedIn is all about connections, networking and building relationships within the network. It’s about professional development for workers and sourcing for the employer. LinkedIn lets us build better profiles, in some ways replacing the conventional resume and references but more than that, it allows discovery. Discovery of potential job prospects and potential recruitment candidates.

Many people have faulted LinkedIn for their UI / UX choice but there are a few other big issues: –

  1. Discovery and ranking: how does LinkedIn actually improve your chances of discovery? There are different things you need to do to ensure a complete profile. In addition, you cannot neglect your profile nor fail to interact.
  2. Job suggestions: the algorithm behind this doesn’t learn from choices and often offers many false positives.
  3. Interaction: LinkedIn sends a slew of emails, and the more groups etc you participate in, the more email you have to wade thru.
  4. Groups: LinkedIn groups should be incredible but the groups are the successor to online forums and have not solved the problem of recurring discussions instead of a continued thread.

The Warptest POV

Satya Nadella has a vision, a mission statement for Microsoft. To empower each person… to do more. Microsoft is about productivity and collaboration and they have gone full-bore into cross-platform and open source.

Microsoft BUILD 2016 was where we saw much of this vision come together and it is not hard to see how this will be applied to LinkedIn:

  1. Metro New Windows UI: LinkedIn will iterate to a flat UI like the rest of Microsoft. Not overnight.
  2. Office 365: this is a no-brainer. Business Insider shows Satya Nadella’s letter regarding the LinkedIn acquisition and he makes clear reference to tighter productivity integration. Will we see “build a Word resume from your LinkedIn profile and save to OneDrive”? This, in-app use of templates and more Office 365 goodness can be expected.
  3. Cortana: as Cortana continues to evolve, acquire an increased skillset and integrate with more apps, we can expect to see Cortana integrate with LinkedIn.
  4. Bots: Microsoft launched their Bot Framework and this may offer a better solution to job suggestions, discovery and excess emails.
  5. Bing: Microsoft has integrated Bing with several other external platforms including Siri & Facebook (in the past). Logical and somewhat obvious.
  6. Office Graph: Office Graph and Delve make intelligent discovery seamless within Office 365. This will amp up job and candidate discovery.

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This doesn’t even factor in Microsoft location or ad services.

So Microsoft has the biggest dataset of professional connections in the world, new companies, who is looking for work, who wants to source the best candidates and the trending discussions in groups of different high profile jobs. This is all actionable intelligence for the biggest company selling Enterprise and Consumer IT solutions.
 
Now bring AI, bots frameworks, analytics and search-discovery to bear along with the most powerful productivity suite in the world.
Get ready for a better LinkedIn. I know I am.

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?

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.

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.