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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.

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?

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple is Trolling Again…

It seems whenever Microsoft comes out with a new product that competes in Cook’s, excuse me Apple’s niche… there he is with something trollish to say on the subject.

This week was no exception, with Cook making spurious allegations that the Surface Book is “deluded”.

I’m pretty convinced that Tim Cook has not laid eyes on, let alone tested out a Surface Book.

Tim Cook Surface Book

Lacking the smallest smidgen of surprise, Cook’s comments come the week the iPad Pro is launched.

Tim Cook iPad Pro

But, but Microsoft Started

Okay Tim chill out man, yes it’s true in Microsoft’s launch event recently they did in fact mention Apple products once or twice.

When Panos Panay pulled out the Surface Book to an awed crowd he did compare performance of the Surface Book to the equivalent Mac Book. Notice the difference between,

Ours performs faster than yours AND I’m going to anthropomorphize your device by calling it deluded.

We get it Tim, we really do. The best defense is offense but, there’s a world of difference between “offense” and “offensive”.

Dude, you make incredible products that sell themselves on design and total ease of use… yes they sell themselves so why behave like a troll to your competition?

All you are showing the world is that Microsoft has you running scared with a product you can only compete with by trash-talking it.

FAILURE 1: this is not how we market Tim. It’s just not.

FAILURE 2: where is the innovation Tim, where?

I’m sorry Tim but the Surface Book is innovative, the Lumia 950 / 950 XL are innovative, promising a true Pocket PC experience  via Windows 10 Phone’s Continuum with a slew of other features.

The Warptest POV

The Warptest POV remains pretty darn consistent on the subject of competition:

  • Having competitors is a must: If you’re developing any product in a niche where you have no competition you had better start asking yourself, why?
  • Competition stimulates innovation: the best thing about Apple having Google and Microsoft is the constant competition benefits us, the consumers.
  • Consider it an homage not copying, not stealing: Metro UI New Windows UI begat Material Design and so on. The highest form of compliment is emulating your competition. It means you think they did something really, really right.

Competition is good, competition is our friend on every level but let’s keep it professional, let’s keep it real.

Tim Cook is the master of the gated community. Apple devices and the App Store define very stringently the rules of the game. This is why the PC is still relevant Tim, this is why consumers like choice.

A cautionary tale for Tim Cook is that this was as near to him channeling Steve Ballmer’s iPhone comments as he could get:

Nutshell, it’s time for Tim Cook to accept that there are amazing devices out there and they are made by Apple’s competitors. Positively market your products and let your respect for your competition stimulate some innovation. There lies the path to true success.

Are you thinking about going to try the Surface Book? At the least judge for yourself why it scares Tim Cook so much.

The Windows 10 Devices Presentation From New York…

… delivered on so many levels but ultimately Microsoft showed a unified direction, a collective energy unmatched by any other event so far this year and incredible devices running Windows 10.

Many people were concerned that without Joe Belfiore onstage we couldn’t expect the best, however what we got was clearly the best and brightest that Redmond has to offer, their A-Team; Terry Myerson bounded on stage to introduce the event and talk about Hololens followed by Lindsey Maltese of the Microsoft Band team, talking about the Band 2, then we got to see the incredible Panos Panay bring his incredible energy to the stage about Surface and Lumia devices with Bryan Roper dazzling us with Lumia and Continuum.

The livestream event ran for a whopping 95 minutes and every bit of this time was maximized to deliver the new Windows 10 Devices across the spectrum. Devices that across the board are best of breed.

If you find the last statement hard to believe then I suggest you watch the presentation for yourself right here.

The Unified Message

It became rapidly apparent that besides the very genuine enthusiasm and passion the presenters brought onstage, the central theme or message behind the livestream event was that all the Windows 10 Devices were designed without compromise to ensure maximum productivity.

Whatever you want to do with the device in front of you Microsoft intends to ensure you can be your most productive whilst using that device; with Windows 10 as the enabler. In addition, each presenter made strong mention of the ever increasing number of partners working with Microsoft on Windows 10, Universal Apps and new Windows 10 Devices.

Terry Myerson kicked of the event by letting us have some adoption stats for Windows 10: –

Windows 10 Devices - stats

Devices, Devices, Devices…

HOLOLENS.. a glimpse of the future of mixed reality, immersive gaming. If you’re not excited by this you must be catatonic

BAND 2

LUMIA 950 & 950 XL and the LUMIA 550

SURFACE PRO4.. with a new pen with built-in eraser and interchangeable tips and tight app integration.

SURFACE BOOK.. Microsoft’s first laptop, designed to be the ultimate lightweight, super-powered productivity device.

Amazing accessories which are backwards compatible with the SURFACE PRO3

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Screencaps of Windows 10 Devices Livestream courtesy of my Lumia 810

The way we work and interact with our personal computers is evolving. The first phase was touch, then we moved to personal assistants aboard like Cortana & Siri, form factors have changes with hybrid devices, tablets and others but the Windows 10 Devices Event showed an ecosystem of devices with a shared platform, portability based on the user and incredibly engineered and designed user experiences from mixed reality gaming on Hololens, a wearable that guides and interacts with our exercise, environment and other devices in the Band 2, incredible new phones in the Lumia 950 and 950XL which have achieved the Holy Grail of a true pocket PC thru Windows 10 and Continuum, biometric recognition for login and purchase in Windows Hello and to quote Panos Panay true “lapability” with the next evolutions of the laptop in the Surface Pro4 and the stunning new Surface Book.

Each of these are best of breed devices whose impact will undoubtedly change the way we work and play, change ease of use and our productivity.

All of this made possible by Windows 10 but the secret sauce Microsoft displayed at this event isn’t just winning hardware and incredible designs that beat the pants off the competition, it’s the passion and enthusiasm, the unified vision displayed by the Windows 10 Devices team. If Panos Panay is the King of Presentations, then Bryan Roper is the Crown Prince.

The Warptest POV

As we’ve mentioned in the past, the secret sauce that pulls Windows 10 Devices and OS integration tightly together are Universal Apps but the combination of amazing devices that combine the last word in productivity, portability and some very clever accessories with the presenters had seasoned tech reporters and bloggers giving standing ovations. When was the last time Microsoft got a standing ovation?

It should be clear that the direction and vision that Satya Nadella chose is coming to fruition and after seeing the Lumia 950 and 950XL in action I feel sorry for the trolls and naysayers. This is a winning vision.

The level of confidence was clearly indicated in the way that almost every benchmark comparison of Windows 10 Devices was to an equivalent Apple device. This was done without snark or hostility, simply a comparison of performance, ours versus theirs. Well except for one comment about Apple’s pencil not having an eraser but hey, it was funny.

I decided that the POV section is best served by embedding some of my real time comments from Twitter / Facebook as I watched the event.

I just watched the Microsoft livestream for new #Windows10devices and I have never had delivery so exceed…

Posted by Warptest on Tuesday, 6 October 2015

 

Companies who are not buying into Universal Apps for #Windows10 are clearly lacking vision and are basically missing the…

Posted by Jonathan Ross on Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Many if not all these devices will be available towards the end of October. If you have the chance then go hands on for yourself and I bet you’ll understand why the standing ovation and again as Panos Panay said,

Microsoft brought the Thunder…

Skype Mojis Are Hot…

With their launch of a new, fun feature, Mojis. Skype Announced this yesterday on their Microsoft blog (check out this link for Kermit and Miss Piggy discussing the Muppet Mojis inside). Still, you are probably either scratching your head asking, “What are Skype Mojis?” Or calling in the Spelling / Grammar Police because everyone knows its Emojis…

Skype Mojis - what are they?

Skype Mojis are a way to express yourself using a short movie or TV clip that Skype provides for you to choose, use and send to one or a group of people you are talking to over Skype.

Skype Mojis - where are they?

As you can see above, you can access Mojis by doing the following: –

Skype Mojis - how to use them

When the person/ people on the other side of the conversation get the message, all they do is click on the Moji to play it.

This feature is rolling out already in updates for Skype on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Whilst this is a fun feature, you’re probably thinking, “Okay cute but so what?”

Monetization 101

If you look a bit closely at this screengrab of a Moji that was sent in a conversation you may notice the cyan text Watch now

Skype Mojis - monetization time

That’s right, Mojis aren’t just cute sentiment indicators, Memes or novel ways of communicating; the person who receives them is one click away from seeing the TV show or movie.

Clicking on Watch now opens a browser window (and in Windows 10 and probably 8.1 the Store app too) with the show / season for purchase or rental in Standard and Hi-definition.

Skype Mojis are a funnel

As the Mojis grow in Skype, more content will be on offer which is viewable on a variety of devices, “plays on Xbox, Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8. For offline viewing, download your favorites on Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8.”

Devilishly clever huh.

The Warptest POV

In a nutshell those cute, funny Mojis are a great standalone feature but also a funnel. Killer feature Skype.

Now longtime Warptest readers will be aware that I’ve expressed ideas about how Skype should have evolved. Hearing about Mojis and testing this all out led me to the following conclusions: –

  1. I’m sure I’m not the only person asking for this but give us Skype Mojis Maker App. There are memes and clips that work for me: Airplane, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or perhaps the famous Captain Kirk Khaaaan scream from Star Trek 3. Even if the movie isn’t available making my own Mojis for use in Skype would only increase the wow factor of this feature. This is an app I’d buy.
  2. Okay so I’ve Moji’d you over Skype and you buy the movie and start watching it. Now have Skype open as a sidebar in the movie player (like in Outlook.com) and presto Social TV thru Skype. Maybe I’ll be inclined to buy/rent the same content so I can watch it too and we can chat about it over Skype as we watch.

One question that came up over Twitter when this feature was announced was, why no Windows Phone app? With Windows 10 Phone nearing completion, I have no doubt we are going to see Skype Mojis for Windows Phone 8 and 10. That said, get a move on Microsoft, show your loyal Windows Phone users some love.

At the end of the day, my hat’s off to the Skype team at Microsoft for creating a great, new feature with excellent monetization potential.

So, who’s going to Moji me first?

Microsoft Went On Stage At IFA…

… Last Friday and when I should have been elbow-deep in weekend ironing I was sitting watching the livestream, taking notes in a new Moleskine notebook and live-tweeting some observations.

The presentation was given by Nick Parker, Corporate VP of OEM and Bryan Roper, Executive Demo Lead.

Bryan Roper - Microsoft IFA
Nick Parker - Microsoft IFA

The presentation was well put together, snappy and interesting, and I came away with several insights.

Things you learn from a Microsoft Presentation:

Nick and Bryan wasted no time letting us know the current stats for Windows 10 adoption. The most significant, 75 million devices running Windows 10 in the first month since release.

Then they got to work talking about some of the things that make Windows 10 so great: –

Windows 10 speaking points - Microsoft IFA

They paid a lot of attention to incredible features like Windows Hello, especially when demonstrating it and the hardware supporting it on a slew of amazing devices. My particular favorites were the Acer Cloudbook (a crowd pleaser for the educational crowd, Windows 10 and a Chromebook killer), Toshiba concept, ultrathin laptop and Toshiba IOT (Internet of Things) ED Logger (running Windows10 IOT, I want this yesterday).

Toshiba IOT - Microsoft IFA

Toshiba ED Logger IOT Windows 10 device.

Whilst I was learning a lot about the incredible creativity and designs coming from Microsoft’s OEM Partners, I learnt a few other things too: –

  1. Microsoft, Google and Apple must have an outstanding school for teaching onstage presentation skills. Nick and Bryan gave incredible presentations (even if it seemed that IFA had them on the clock).
  2. Other than Acer with their Jade Primo Windows 10 Phone (yes, with Continuum on display they labelled it a Pocket PC), no OEM focus on Windows10 Phone. Possibly, until Microsoft announces the official launch date the OEMs are keeping quiet.
  3. Oh Bryan, you were doing so well but then you did the speech marks with your fingers. Don’t go all Doctor Evil on us.
  4. If I wasn’t already fascinated by gaming, the new Xbox streaming to Windows10 would certainly be enticing me.
  5. Apparently according to Nick and Bryan, Asus is pronounced Ay-Seuss NOT Ah-Sus. I’m a little traumatized by that factoid.

The Warptest POV

All in all the Microsoft presentation at IFA 2015 was a polished, exciting display of a wide range of devices for all pocket and use case. With Microsoft expected to make announcements in October, about a Surface Pro 4, new Lumia flagship Windows10 Phones and Band2 I didn’t have high expectations of hearing a lot on OEM phones.

That said I’m confident that the number of OEMs building Windows10 Phones will increase from Windows Phone 8.1

Bryan nailed it with one sentence, “The best device that you have is the one you have with you“.

One thing is certain Microsoft knows how to work well with their OEM Partners and us consumers are going to win big time from these partnerships.

Back to my ironing…

IncrediBuild Launched Their Latest Version Just After Windows 10.

Many of us take for granted that when Microsoft launches a new OS that there are Developer tools like Visual Studio and TFS (Team Foundation Server) that need updating to support it.

Windows 10 - TFS - Visual Studio 2105 - IncrediBuild

These allow all the software and apps we use to be updated in line with the OS, to add new features and to change the look and feel to match that of the Operating System, and of course to create incredible new applications that leverage all the power behind Windows 10.

Microsoft isn’t alone in these endeavors and works hand in hand with many partners and 3rd Party Solution Providers. IncrediBuild is one of these and they didn’t waste a moment, while others are scrambling to go to market with their solutions for Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015, IncrediBuild are already out of the gate with their offering.

So, what is IncrediBuild?

To quote their product overview,

A simple and speedy way to accelerate builds, compilations, and development processes 30x faster or more.

Windows 10 - IncrediBuild - Visual Studio 2015 - Product

After reading this, I caught up with their Marketing Manager, Avi Hein (disclosure: Avi is a friend) and in addition to the official press release (embedded in this post as a PDF) I decided to ask him some questions all about IncrediBuild 7 for Windows 10 and Visual Studio 2015:

Adobe AcrobatPDF of Press Release: IncrediBuild 7 For Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10


  1. How long did IncrediBuild’s team work on this release? 

IncrediBuild has been around since 2002 and we are continually working to update and support the latest operating systems and versions of Visual Studio.

The last version before IncrediBuild 7.0 was released in March, so we have been dedicating ourselves exclusively to 7 for the past 6 months. But we are always working on continuous improvement.

Since the first alpha of Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10, we have been working to ensure compatibility. We have a very strong relationship with the development team at Microsoft and have been constantly working. In addition, we were Visual Studio 2015 Sim-Ship partners, so we were in constant communication to ensure early support for Visual Studio.

Incidentally, we also have some great things planned for the future as well.

 2. Who is it intended for, large companies, startups or a single developer?

The great thing about IncrediBuild is there is a solution for any size dev team.

A single developer can use our “FreeDev” version on his or her local machine and will gain performance improvements at no cost. 

Startups, medium companies, and even large enterprises can also benefit from IncrediBuild. The more cores added to IncrediBuild’s coordinator, either on the local network or via cloud integration with public clouds like Azure and AWS, the more speed improvements. We have customers who have a small dev team using it as well as hundreds of users in large enterprises who are running it in their whole company. 

One of the advantages of IncrediBuild is ease of use and installation. Just install and run. There is no need for professional services or to change your code or your software toolchain. Continue using the same tools, but faster.                                              

3. What is the added value in a nutshell for me as a developer to having IncrediBuild?

We spend too much time waiting, and not enough time building and testing software.

As an example, one of our customers, GeoTeric, a UK-based geological software company, wanted to add automated tests. However, because their builds were taking over two hours (without tests) they did not want to add automated unit tests. However, after implementing IncrediBuild, they implemented Agile development practices such as automated testing and continuous integration and even with 2,000-3,000 automated tests (where before all tests were manual) build time decreased from 2 hours to 11 minutes.

Recently, we surveyed hundreds of developers. The results were astounding. Running multiple builds daily, the survey revealed that developers spend a minimum of two hours a day waiting for their software to build. I want to hear from your readers. How long do your builds take? 

4. How does this integrate with TFS?

IncrediBuild integrates easily with TFS. We integrate out-of-the-box with Team Foundation Server

Essentially, the Microsoft® TFS-IncrediBuild integration transforms each build agent into a 500-core machine.

Here is an old white paper that explains our TFS integration:  https://www.incredibuild.com/extrafiles/whitepaper.pdf 

5. Does it matter if I work Agile or Waterfall?

IncrediBuild accelerates any process and builds. So you can benefit regardless of what development methodologies. If you are a waterfall team with manual tests, but your builds and compilations take a long time, you will see a significant improvement.

Of course, if you are an Agile team doing Extreme Programming, doing continuous integration, running automated testing, those processes take a long time and so 

6. Is there a trial version, for how long is it good and can I have the link to sign up for it?

IncrediBuild offers a FreeDev version, which is free for life on up to 8 cores, on your local machine. For the full power of IncrediBuild, of course, the price depends on the number of cores you want to use to help you speed up your development.

You can learn more or download IncrediBuild at https://www.incredibuild.com/incredibuild-product-overview.html

We also just released a Linux and Android version, which accelerates Linux development as well.

Right now, that is free. If you are running Red Hat Enterprise Linux, CentOS, or Ubuntu, you can learn more or get it here: https://www.incredibuild.com/incredibuild-for-linux-solution.html

 7. So clearly you all have been using Windows 10, why should everyone be upgrading? Tell me for developers but also for the everyday user too? 

Many companies are beginning to upgrade to Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10, especially companies that haven’t migrated from Windows XP or Windows 7. Therefore, it is important to be supporting anyone who is using the latest operating systems and Windows 10, from the first days.   

8. You mention an increased focus on gaming in the press release, what are the best games I should be playing right now? 

Visual Studio 2015 included some very nice gaming compilations. We also worked very closely with NVIDIA and are included in their AndroidWorks suite of tools for Android developers.

What many people do not know is that the world’s most popular games are developed with “IncrediBuild Inside.” We, personally, of course, love Halo & Age of Empires.

Also, there are some great games coming out of Indy studios. Check out Star Citizen (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/) if you like space battles, 

9. How much coffee did it take to launch IncrediBuild’s latest release?

While we love coffee here at IncrediBuild, one of the benefits is that we shorten your coffee break. Since our builds are so fast, there were a lot fewer coffee breaks.

Yes, that is the one downside for developers – faster builds and so shorter coffee breaks. (See https://www.incredibuild.com/how-much-time-does-incredibuild-save-incredibuild-vs-your-coffee-brea.html for a great video that shows how much IncrediBuild shortens your coffee break)

 10. Who do I contact to buy this now?

You can download IncrediBuild at https://www.incredibuild.com

If you want to buy IncrediBuild contact our sales team at sales@incredibuild.com or buy online https://www.incredibuild.com/ibonlinestore

Thanks, Avi.

The Warptest POV

If you are a Developer working with Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10, whether you work in Enterprise, Startup or alone, this is something you should be seriously looking at. IncrediBuild are offering a way to turbo-boost your lifecycle / development mojo.

I’m going to be recommending to all the Windows 10 Developers I know to take a look at IncrediBuild 7 for themselves. If you know someone this could help then pay it forward.

Time to work faster and smarter. Oh and by the way, if you haven’t already upgraded to Windows 10 and want to, see this link.