Tag Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft and Adobe: Productivity and Platforms Companies Partner Closely

At Adobe’s Adobe MAX conference in Los Angeles on October 6, officials announced a host of updates across their entire product line, and several new creative-focused apps and SDK.

One of the several themes in the conference was Adobe working hard to make their products work across all devices. In making this point, they demonstrated several products using iPhone, iPad and Surface Pro 3. The demo on Surface Pro 3 showed the full Illustrator application, not a scaled down touch app, working very well with touch and stylus while keeping the mouse functionality intact.

In a surprise, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella joined in the keynote, and in his company, Adobe demonstrated how well their applications worked with touch, vision and speech on a Surface Pro 3. The final demo was on a Perceptive Pixel display where they were able to show how multiple people can physically collaborate and work on a digital product together. This includes multi-hand, multi-touch manipulation of information on the large display.

Nadella’s presence was to drive home the point that Adobe is committed to making their software work on a variety of devices, enabling the creative professionals to be unshackled from the physical hardware they are working on, including 2-in-1 devices like Surface as well as large displays like the Perceptive Pixels. Narayen also made the point that Adobe wants to make sure their software works well by partnering with hardware and software makers and especially working very closely with companies like Microsoft.

Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX
Satya Nadells and Shantanu Narayen at Adobe MAX

From Microsoft’s perspective, Nadella focused on his four key mantras: mobile-first and cloud-first mentality in building software, along with the core philosophy at Microsoft which is to be the platform maker upon which others build as well as being at the forefront of productivity. For the audience at Adobe MAX, Nadella talked about how creative professionals can build upon the platform created by Adobe with enhanced productivity that a device like Surface Pro 3 provides in the form of native support of touch screen and stylus.

Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Illustrator on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3
Adobe Photoshop on Surface Pro 3

 

The collaboration between Microsoft and Adobe is very interesting because for the longest time, it seemed like Adobe would be a good acquisition target for Microsoft which builds platforms for developers and IT pros but lack a suite for the creative folks. However, it does seem like the two companies are ok working very closely with each other (building Adobe Flash into Metro Internet Explorer was another unrelated collaboration) rather than be part of one company. Perhaps Microsoft realized that Adobe is the leader across a variety of software catered to creative professionals and it is best to court them and work closely with them.

Finally, in an Oprah moment, Nadella announced that all the attendees at Adobe MAX would be receiving a Surface Pro 3 along with Office 365 which includes 1TB of cloud storage. Surprisingly, this announcement received a standing ovation!

Microsoft Adds Another App to Office: Sway

In a blog post on Office Blogs on October 1, Microsoft announced the launch of a new design-focused app in the Office family, called Sway. In keeping with the new “mobile-first, cloud-first” mantra at Microsoft, this app is built for the web and for all kinds of devices from the ground up. It is not a desktop application which was fine tuned to run on mobile devices, but instead it was built keeping a multi-device world in mind.

Sway can be thought of as another “storytelling” app which makes it easy for anyone to tell a story. This is done in a beautiful interface which scales itself to fill screens of all sizes, and leverages popular cloud storage and services like OneDrive, Facebook and YouTube. It blends text, images, embedded video and search in a variety of formats and layouts and makes creating projects (or “telling stories”) a fun exercise. The layouts get adjusted according to the content that keeps getting added to the canvas, which itself is called a Sway, and this is thanks to the work done by Microsoft Research.

An introduction video posted on the Office Blogs shows many different devices used to create the story:


Interestingly, much like PowerPoint’s Mix app/feature, Sway lets the stories be interactive so it enables collaboration among teams, friends and family. Currently, it looks like it supports many consumer services but the Office team promises increased business functionality in the form of support for OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, integration with the Office Graph and more.

Sway is currently in preview and one can request an invite at Sway.com.

Here is an example of an embedded Sway:

 

Lumia 830 Launched In India For INR 28,799

Along with the Lumia 730 selfie smartphone, Microsoft also launched the successor of the Lumia 825 smartphone in india. The Lumia 830 packs a 10 megapixel PureView camera with ZEISS optics and thinnest Optical Image Stabilization system. Apart from that, it comes with a 5 inch HD Curved Glass Display and a 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor.

Lumia 830 runs on the Windows Phone 8.1 Operating System with the Lumia Denim update. This handset will go on sale from October 8 in India. Lumia 830 comes with a price-tag of INR 28,799. This device will be available in Orange, White and Black colors. Microsoft also offers 1 TB of cloud storage on One Drive free for the first 6 months. Lumia 830 will compete with the recently launched 2nd generation Moto X in the Indian market.

Lumia 830 Specifications:

  • 5 inch HD Curved Glass Display
  • 1280 x 720 pixels resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor
  • Windows Phone 8.1 Operating System with Lumia Denim
  • 10 megapixel PureView camera with ZEISS optics
  • Rich Recording and Optical Image Stabilization
  • 1 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • WLAN IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 16 GB internal user memory
  • 128 GB expandable memory
  • Up to 14.8 hours of talk-time
  • Up to 22 days of stand-by time
  • 2200 mAh removable battery

Lumia 730 Selfie Smartphone Launched In India For INR 15,299

Last month, Microsoft announced its much-awaited selfie smartphone at the IFA 2014 in Berlin. Today, Microsoft finally launched the Lumia 730 in India. This device packs a Full-HD 5 megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera with a focal length of 24mm which allows you to take groupfies (group selfies).

Lumia 730 is a dual-SIM smartphone which runs on the Windows Phone 8.1 Operating System with the latest Lumia Denim update. It comes with a price-tag of INR 15,299 in India. This device will compete with the recently launched Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime and Sony Xperia C3 selfie smartphones in India. Lumia 730 will be available in Green, Orange, White and Dark Grey colors.

Lumia 730 Specifications:

  • 4.7 inch HD OLED display
  • 720 × 1280 pixels resolution
  • 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor
  • Windows Phone 8.1 Operating system with Lumia Denim
  • 6.7 megapixel rear camera with LED flash
  • 5 megapixel wide-angle front-facing camera with Full HD video
  • 8 GB internal memory
  • 128 GB expandable memory
  • HERE location services
  • Free global HERE Maps
  • HERE Drive+Free
  • HERE Transit
  • 4G LTE Connectivity
  • 2220 mAh battery
  • Wireless charging compatible

Windows 10: The Next Version of Windows, Made for Any Device

At a small press gathering on September 30, Microsoft showed what is an early version of the next edition of Windows, and tricked everyone by calling it Windows 10 instead of the chronologically appropriate Windows 9.

As this event was catering to the enterprises, there was emphasis mostly on the features that will make existing Windows XP and Windows 7 customers not hesitate to move to the next version of Windows. Microsoft officials admitted that Windows 8, and even Windows 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update are too different from Windows XP and Windows 7 and customers are staying away from upgrades because they will need a lot of training hours to train their users.

Along with revealing some of the key updates to Windows, and in a big departure from the past, Microsoft also announced that technically savvy users as well as IT Pros in enterprises can enroll in a Windows Insider program which will allow them to download the Windows 10 bits starting October 1. These Windows Insiders will then have access to the latest bits and will be able to provide feedback directly to Microsoft during the preview.

Windows 10’s consumer features will be discusses in early 2015, the developer story will be discussed at //Build, Microsoft’s developer conference, in April. The final version of Windows 10 is expected to be available later in 2015.

Let’s look at what was revealed in terms of Windows 10 at the event:

Start Menu

Perhaps one of the most wanted (and missing) features in Windows 8.x was the ever-familiar Start Menu. The Start Menu is back, but instead of simply being a Windows 7-style Start Menu, it is now going to have some Live Tiles next to the list of programs and folders. In addition, the Start Menu’s “shape” is customizable so if you desire a flatter and wider Start Menu, you can simply drag its boundaries and make it flat.

Windows 10 Start Menu
Windows 10 Start Menu

Search

The search functionality in the Start Menu is back, and in addition to searching for files and folders on the local PC, the feature will search the web too, just like the main search feature that exists in Windows 8.x today.

Windowed Metro Apps

Another very highly requested feature from non-touch device users and users with large screens is the ability to run Metro apps in their own windows instead of defaulting to full screen. Despite improvements in snap mode in Windows 8.1, it wasn’t enough and by making Metro apps work seamlessly in their own windows which can be resized without affecting the usability of the Metro apps, Microsoft is taking care of the power users.

Windows 10 Windowed Metro App
Windows 10 Windowed Metro App

Snap Assist

Windows 8’s Snap mode has made incremental improvements over time. With Windows 10, it gets even better so it will now be possible to snap up to 4 apps on one screen. The screen is now going to be divided into quadrants and each snapped app can occupy a quadrant or two. In addition, Snap Assist enables the best utilization of the screen real estate by snapping apps to appropriately fill the screen space.

Windows 10 Snap
Windows 10 Snap

Task View

A new button will be present on the Taskbar which will enable viewing open apps/applications as well as any virtual desktops in use.

Windows 10 Task View
Windows 10 Task View

Virtual Desktops

In Windows 10, one will be able to create multiple “desktops” much like Mac OS X and Linux, to isolate the work based on any organizational aspect like work vs home, projects, etc.

Windows 10 Virtual Desktops
Windows 10 Virtual Desktops

One Store, One App Model

Microsoft also said that with Windows 10, it won’t be truly “one operating system” but it will be one product family with a common app development model and a common store. This way, Windows 10 will be able to run on “things” (from the Internet of Things) to ruggedized embedded systems, to phones and phablets to tablets and 2-in-1 devices to PCs up to 85″ in screen size.

Continuum

In all this discussion about Start Menu and full-screen apps, the lines between a normal non-touch PC user and a tablet user are clearly drawn. However, what happens when someone uses a hybrid or 2-in-1 device like the Surface or one of the many detachable or convertible devices? In such situations, Windows 10 will invoke Continuum. This feature detects a touch screen usage and converts the use to a tablet use and if a keyboard or mouse is then detected, it prompts to switch to a PC use (and vice versa).

This is nicely demonstrated by Joe Belfiore in the video below (courtesy The Verge):

 

Here’s Joe Belfiore from the Windows team, walking through the new features:

And here’s a walkthrough of Windows 10 provided by Microsoft to Geekwire’s Blair Hanley Frank:

Bing App on iPhone: iOS 8 Extensibility and Widgets in Action

On September 23, Microsoft detailed some of the new features delivered through the latest update of the Bing app on iPhone. With iOS 8, Apple did bulk up and two of the many features added were extensibility through sharing between apps as well as widgets on the notification screen.

The updated Bing app utilizes both of these features:

Bing Translator

With Bing Translator feature of the app installed as a supported shareable app in Safari, you can now instantly translate any web page in Safari. This feature is also of course available inside the Bing app itself, so if you need to translate search results it can be done within the app itself.

Bing App Translate
Bing App Translate
Bing Translate Share Sheet
Bing Translate Share Sheet
Bing App Extensibility iOS 8 Safari
Bing App Extensibility iOS 8 Safari
Bing App Translated Page
Bing App Translated Page

 

Today and Trending Topics widget

In addition to the translator, the Bing app now lets you choose Bing Today as a lock screen widget. This widget shows the Bing Image Of The Day, as well as three top trending topics. Clicking on the image leads to the front page inside the Bing app and clicking on any of the trending topics leads to the news items about those trending topics.

 

iOS 8 Lock Screen Widget Chooser
iOS 8 Lock Screen Widget Chooser
iOS 8 Bing Today Widget
iOS 8 Bing Today Widget

 

Microsoft has moved Bing’s value from a pure desktop web search engine to a vast pool of entities and relationships which get better as more people use the service. The more “end points” Bing has, the better the quality of the engine becomes. With this background it is easy to see why the Bing team would improve the Bing app for iPhone and jump on the latest technologies supported by the latest features of iOS.

Although most users who need to search on iOS can now use iOS 8’s updated Spotlight, it is still nice to use an app that lets you search not just the web, but also news, images, photos, videos, etc., and that’s what the Bing app lets you do.

Do you use the Bing app on iOS? Do you like the updates?

Minecraft Maker Mojang Joins Microsoft

The rumors were true. Microsoft announced on September 15, that they have agreed to acquire Mojang, the makers of Minecraft. Mojang, based in Sweden, announced that the founders Notch, Carl and Jakob will be leaving as part of this acquisition.

This acquisition has naturally created a lot of noise because on the one hand, many fear that Microsoft will ruin the company and in the worst case scenario, pull the cross-platform nature of Minecraft and make it Windows-only. On the other, there are saner minds who have spelled out that, if done right, this would be a good bet for Microsoft to invest into the next generation of makers and therefore, potential developers.

Minecraft, for those who are not aware, is an online game very popular among kids, where players build environments much like using LEGO to build structures and things. There is a level of interactivity because of the online nature of the game, so for example, cousins across the world could be building stuff together. There is no limit to what you can build and there have been crazy examples of stuff built in Minecraft including an actual functioning hard drive!

The company is profitable, and Microsoft expects to be net positive for the deal by FY 2015. For Microsoft, since Mojang is based in Sweden, it helps them use some of the offshore cash which they would not have brought back to the US anyway, due to tax liabilities.

Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, has made it clear that nothing is planned to change. MINECON, the Minecraft conference will continue as planned. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, said they are looking forward to the new opportunity this will bring to Microsoft:

“Minecraft is more than a great game franchise – it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft.”

Notch, the nickname of Markus Persson who created the game, said he is leaving Mojang because he could not handle the company now that it has become such a massive, global initiative. He wants to focus on software development and given the close working relationship he formed with Microsoft in the process of bringing Minecraft to Xbox, he thought it was best that Microsoft continues supporting and investing in Mojang.

It will be interesting to see how Microsoft handles the obviously different culture that Mojang brings. We have seen them handle Yammer and Skype, both companies with a similar potential culture clash problem, by keeping them independent. Game makers are perhaps one step farther in terms of having a non-corporate culture, so besides keeping them independent, it will be important to see how the company is nurtured.

What are your thoughts? Crazy move for Microsoft? Crazy move for Mojang? Or mutually beneficial to both?

 

 

OneDrive Updates: 10GB Files, Dropbox-like Sharing, More

OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, is getting better thanks to some top requested features being added to the service and its sync apps. In an announcement on the OneDrive Blog on September 10, Microsoft announced the following updates:

Large Files Support

Until now, OneDrive supported files up to 2GB in size but now customers can store files up to 10GB in size. This can be done through the desktop sync clients, mobile apps as well as from the web app. There are not too many “normal” uses where files would be more than 2GB in size, but some examples could be if you have digital downloads of HD movies or digitally downloaded software or Outlook PST files as examples.

Sharing directly from Windows Explorer

Dropbox has long had the ability to share a file stored in Dropbox from the computer directly, all reflecting correctly back to Dropbox service as a shared file. With OneDrive, until now, you would need to share it from OneDrive.com, unless you simply attach the file from the PC in which case it is not the same use case.

With the latest update, when you right-click on a file in Windows 7 and Windows 8, you get one more option which is to “Share a OneDrive link” which will create a link to the file and copy it to the clipboard. Once the link is created, it will be registered on OneDrive.com’s file properties as a shared file with the link. Curiously, Windows 8.1 and Mac updates are not ready yet, but will be coming soon.

OneDrive Share Link from Windows Explorer
OneDrive Share Link from Windows Explorer

Upload folders from OneDrive.com

With this update, OneDrive.com now supports uploading folders from the web app instead of just files. This includes dragging and dropping an entire folder in the web app to automatically upload it to OneDrive.

OneDrive: Upload folders
OneDrive: Upload folders

Faster syncing

Through some parallelization, Microsoft claims file sync (upload and download) improved threefold in their internal testing. Any improvement is welcome, so this is good news for those relying heavily on desktop sync clients.

As usual, these are good improvements and additions to an already excellent service. Do you have files more than 2GB which you could not sync until now? What were those files? Let us know in the comments below.

The New MSN is Here. Bing Content Apps Re-branded.

msn-main-page-without-signin

That’s right, folks. You have not woken up in the 90’s all of a sudden. In a post on September 7 on the Official Microsoft Blog, officials at the company announced a new preview of their MSN portal. In addition, a big re-branding is planned, where all the Bing apps on Windows and Windows Phone will be renamed to corresponding MSN versions. Finally, these MSN apps will also expand to iOS and Android, reflecting the new philosophy at Microsoft where their own platform is just another platform.

The new MSN

The new site at preview.msn.com is a cleaner, fresher and adjusts according to the screen size (“responsive design”). The busy front page is gone and is now replaced with a main “top stories” panel with large pictures along with a few smaller units for other top news.  Of course, there is a big ad space to the right.

New msn main page
New msn main page

 

As you scroll down, you see the normal sections for content: News, Entertainment, Sports, Money, Lifestyle, Health & Fitness, Food & Drink, Travel, Autos, and lastly, a section for Video. These sections can be moved up or down, or removed completely. Other sections can be added, from the following: Movies, TV, Music, World, US, Tech & Science and Politics.

New msn: Other sections
New msn: Other sections

 

New msn: Remove or move section
New msn: Remove or move section

 

Services strip and sections

Along the top, there is a strip of information, with quick access to various Microsoft and non-Microsoft services. This includes Outlook.com email, Office Online documents, OneNote notebooks, OneDrive storage, Maps, Xbox Music, Skype and optionally, Facebook and Twitter. For Facebook and Twitter, you have to not just sign in to Microsoft account, but also link your Facebook and Twitter accounts. I am not sure why this information is not derived from the existing Microsoft account, where at least in my case, I already have a link established to Facebook, Twitter and others. Below the services strip is a simple navigation link to access sections in your page directly and quickly.

New msn: Services access
New msn: Services access

 

When you mouse over the various services, you get a quick preview of what’s appropriate for the service, like the top 3 emails from your Outlook.com inbox, or recently used Office Online files, OneNote notebooks, and as you will see below, a map of the current location, files and folders from OneDrive, or latest tweets from Twitter.

 

New msn: Maps dropdown
New msn: Maps dropdown
New msn: OneDrive dropdown
New msn: OneDrive dropdown
New msn: Twitter dropdown
New msn: Twitter dropdown

 

Bing Favorites

As mentioned above, the Bing content apps that exist today on Windows and Windows Phone are going to be re-branded to MSN. As a first step in that process, the new msn has Favorites from Bing imported automatically, based on the Microsoft account used. So for example, my favorite sports teams showed up as Favorites in the Sports section, my watch list showed up under Finance, etc.

Don’t judge me, I liked the 49ers until they hired Harbaugh. That’s perhaps because I like USC and he has a history when he was at Stanford with the then USC coach whom I liked. And that’s going to explain why I like the Seahawks :-)

 

New msn: Favorites imported from Bing
New msn: Favorites imported from Bing

 

Actionable items

In addition to serving content from a variety of sources, the new msn also includes sections where you can gain some actionable insights. For example, there is a symptom checker in Health & Fitness, as well as a 3D Human Body in the same section.

 

New msn: 3D Human Body
New msn: 3D Human Body
New msn: Symptom checker
New msn: Symptom checker

 

Top-tier sources and iOS/Android

Per the announcement, the content on the new msn comes from a variety of top-tier sources.

We’ve partnered with the world’s best to deliver on this goal:

  • In the US, some of our premier partners include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, AOL (including TechCrunch and Huffington Post) and Condé Nast (including Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Bon Appétit).

  • Worldwide, we’re excited to include The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun in Japan; Sky News, The Guardian and the Telegraph in the UK, NDTV and Hindustan Times in India, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, and many more.

Along with the new preview, Microsoft is also preparing to launch iOS and Android apps like the ones that exist on Windows and Windows Phone. These iOS and Android apps will roam Favorites and keep content in sync much like the connectedness of Windows and Windows Phone apps. This way, Microsoft is ensuring that no matter which device you use at any time of the day, you have the premier experience with consuming and using the msn content.

I like the new msn, except for the brand name itself. I am not sure the negativity around “msn” is as much as it is around “Internet Explorer” and we know how badly Microsoft and IE teams are trying to paint a brighter image of the latter. It is unclear why the “msn” brand is the one that Microsoft chose to continue with rather than coming up with a new brand or reusing the Bing brand. In any case, time will tell if the branding is right or not.

Have you set preview.msn.com as your home page?

Lumia Denim: Windows Phone 8.1.1 + Firmware Updates

Lumia_Camera

Among many other announcements at IFA 2014 on September 4, Microsoft announced the latest update to the Windows Phone OS. As is usually the case with Nokia’s Lumia updates, this update, called Lumia Denim, is essentially a combination of updates delivered via Windows Phone 8.1 Update (let’s just call it Windows Phone 8.1.1, shall we?) and firmware updates. These firmware updates add some new features and functionality and also improve the overall performance of Lumia devices and pre-loaded apps.

To start with, the newly announced Lumia 730, Lumia 735 and Lumia 830 will come pre-loaded with Lumia Denim. The other Windows Phone 8 Lumia devices will receive this update over the air in Q4 2014 after appropriate partner and carrier testing.

We have provided a brief overview of what’s delivered in the core OS update, but here are the features delivered via the firmware update include in Lumia Denim:

Moment Capture

4K-quality video recording at 24FPS now available on Lumia devices. You can invoke this by long pressing the camera button. Since each frame is 8.3 megapixels, each individual frame can be shared as a still image too.

Rich Capture

Auto-HDR and Dynamic Flash are now included in the images taken. This way, it will be possible to take a picture and then adjust the camera settings later, to get the perfection in the shot.

“Hey Cortana”

Cortana, the impressive personal digital assistant included first with Windows Phone 8.1, can now be invoked by just saying “Hey Cortana”. Similar to Google Now’s “OK Google”, this feature enables even quicker access to Cortana. As a side, this is enabled by the SensorCore technology, so it won’t be available on Lumia devices which do not have SensorCore.

Glance screen

Glance screen (on eligible devices) can now show additional information from Bing Health & Fitness and Bing Weather in addition to notifications, time and date, and application data.

Lumia Camera

Lumia Camera is the updated name of the application formerly known as Nokia Camera. Updates to this app make it faster and more intuitive.

Speed and improved image processing

It is now even faster to invoke the camera, and there have been speed improvements made in going from shot to shot. In addition, new image processing algorithms make lowlight images even better than before.

These non-core OS updates show again why Lumia devices are still the best bet if you want to own a Windows Phone. Unless and until we see such innovation come from HTC, Samsung and the others, it is hard to see why you would think of using a non-Lumia Windows Phone device.