Microsoft gives us a first look at the Windows 10 Universal app platform

unversal appsThere’s been a lot of emphasis on Universal Apps with Windows 10, and the idea is for these apps to work across a wide array of devices running Microsoft’s latest OS. Today at Mobile World Congress, Microsoft took some time to reveal how this will all work.

It’s all quite simple. It would mean developers can build an app that works on all of Microsoft’s devices using one set of tools, whether it be IOT devices, phones, tablets, PCs Xbox, and even the new Surface Hub.

Microsoft’s Kevin Gallo explains what the software giant is trying to achieve with the following:

“As we built the universal app platform, we set out to ensure that all Windows developers would equally benefit from this one core. The platform enables a new class of Windows universal apps – apps that are truly written once, with one set of business logic and one UI. Apps that are delivered to one Store within one package. Apps that are able to reach every Windows 10 device the developer wants to reach. Apps that feel consistent and familiar to the customer on all devices, while also contextually appropriate to each device’s input model and screen size. The new universal app platform completes our developer platform convergence by providing you with the ability to finally create one app that can run on mobile, desktop, console, holographic, and even IoT devices.”

universal apps spartan browserOne of the really interesting things about Universal Windows 10 Apps is how they can adapt to the type of hardware you’re running. This is an important part in achieving the best possible experience for every device type as the same app will look slightly different as the screen size of different devices typed varies.

“Windows 10 will determine, at runtime, how the customer is interacting with your app and render the appropriate user experience (e.g. on a laptop with a touch-screen, an app fly-out control will provide larger touch-targets if tapped with touch, as opposed to clicked with a mouse).

Microsoft is really leveraging Cortana in Windows 10 and further integrating her capabilities into Windows 10 apps. Some benefits of this integration feature the ability for Windows 10 apps to show up in Cortana search results

As if these features aren’t alone good enough, Microsoft is also making it easy for developers to repackage web apps as Universal apps.

Windows 10 will make it easy for you to create a Windows app that packages your website for publishing to the Store. Once installed, your website can update and call Universal APIs from JavaScript, creating a more engaging user experience.

Microsoft will focus heavily on Windows 10 and its Universal app platform this April at Build conference, and judging by how fast it sold out, there’s definitely a lot of interest from developers in this Windows 10 story.

Source: Microsoft   

Sci-Fi epic Interstellar is now available on Xbox Video

interstellar

Interstellar is one of the most intriguing titles we’ve seen in years, it brings an Avatar like experience to the viewer making it a rare gem, and it’s now available for purchase on Xbox Video.

Interstellar stars Mathew McConaghey Ane Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Micheal Caine.  This films takes you on an unforgettable journey through space time in an effort to save the human race

Christopher Nolan is the director/producer is also known for intriguing titles such as Inception, and many others

Interstellar is available in HD for $24.99 and includes lots of bonus content.  Although an SD version of the film is also available and will cost you $5 less, we highly recommend you go for the HD version.

Interstellar won’t be available on DVD, Blu-ray until March 31 so this is your chance to see it early and it most likely won’t be available to rent on Xbox Video until around that time.

Watch it on Xbox Video on the Web

Download Xbox Video for Windows Phone

Download Xbox Video for Windows 8/8.1

 

OneDrive for Windows Phone updated with the ability to add PIN, new viewing interface and more

onedrive update feb 27 2015 onedrive update feb 27 20152 onedrive update feb 27 20153

Microsoft has pushed an update to OneDrive in the Windows Phone store, and it’s set to offer some pretty neat features. As of now, Windows Phone users will be able to sign into OneDrive with more than one account and have the ability to set up a PIN code to access the account.

There will be a new viewing interface called Albums, which has been added to the web and the iOS versions of the app.

Albums aren’t like traditional folders. You can create an album using pictures and videos from anywhere in your OneDrive. And, when you or people who share them with view them, it’s a much better experience: your photos stand front and center, thumbnails are larger, photos are edge-to-edge, and everything is arranged together into a beautiful collage.

Additionally, Microsoft will be including its Bing search technology within the app and provide new ways to find both photos and documents.

“You can now search for Office documents and PDFs by text inside of them and photos based on time, location, or text that is extracted from images themselves. You can also search for photos based on tags – both ones you manually created and ones that we’ve automatically identified.”

Download OneDrive in the Windows Phone Store here

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Garage releases a handful of great apps for Android and Windows Phone

Microsoft Garage has just released a variety of apps for both Android and Windows Phone which do some pretty neat things.  The motto at Microsoft Garage is “Do epic sh*t!”, and judging by these apps, it appears the team is certainly on the right track.

“Great ideas are easy. The magic happens where execution meets data. The Garage focuses on connecting people with diverse perspectives to quickly bring an idea to life, share it and learn from that experience,” says Ed Essey, senior program manager, whose business card reads “Captain of the Ship.”

dev space app

The first one of the bunch is DevSpace, and it gives software engineers working on projects in Visual Studio Online the ability to check in on parts of a project using their phone, instead of having to power up their laptops and get on the corporate network.

DevSpace, which took about five months from creation to completion, provides fast access to work items and queries, including the use of push notifications to get build status on the start screen, and access through secondary tiles. It also responds to voice commands using Cortana integration.

Download Dev Space from the Windows Phone store here

chinese calendar

The second one is called Your Weather, and it’s a Chinese-language app for Windows Phone that brings personalized air quality and weather reports for cities in China.

“We’re encouraged, as part of our work, to identify key problems in China and create solutions,” says Jacky Hsu, principal program manager in Asia Research and Development for Microsoft. “We worked closely with Microsoft Research Asia and government (China Meteorological Administration) on this app. Air quality is a hot topic in China, and MSR Asia has a team that focuses on this issue. We decided to work with them to bring their algorithms using Azure Machine Learning to the China market.”

Download Your Waether from the Windows Phone store here

Join Conference is the third one on the list and it uses Cortana’s voice recognition technology to make conference calls which saves lots of time.

“Under the covers, though, the app parses through your meeting invite text in the calendar. From that it can see what kind of conference system it is, what the meeting ID and PIN codes are, and if you’re the meeting leader. Then it figures out the best way to connect to the meeting, either launching another app (like Lync or GoToMeeting) or dialing the right access phone number and ID/PIN touch tones to join.”

Download Join Conference from the Windows Phone store here

keyboard for excel

Keyboard for Excel is a fantastic app and it provides a keyboard optimized for numbers. It delivers speed and efficiency to Excel users entering data.

Key Features:

  • Keyboard layout optimized for numbers
  • Excel operators prioritized in the keyboard layout
  • 10-key number layout for fast number entry
  • Tab key for quick navigation across columns

Current limitations: This is an experimental keyboard that supports only English characters without auto-correct and gesture typing.

Download here from Google Play Store

Last but not least is an app called SquadWatch, and it allows you to track the current activity of your friends in your locality.

SquadWatch shows you the people you care most about. For your family & trusted friends, it lets you have awareness of where they are, and what they are doing in real time. Then it lets you communicate with them or visit them in person, with ease.

squadwatch

Download SquadWatch from the Windows Phone Store here

These are just the recently added apps from the Microsoft Garage team, there are plenty of more apps which do some great things that the team has released in the past.

Check out the full list here

Source: Microsoft Garage

OneDrive gets a new RESTful API for Windows, iOS, Android & Web

OneDrive-API-launch-blog-post-bannerToday is an exciting day for Microsoft as the software company has just released a new OneDrive API to allow cross-platform developers to integrate OneDrive into their apps to store and manage user data.

The new RESTful API is compatible with all major platforms including Windows, iOS, Android & Web. The opening of OneDrive to all platforms is a strong sign that Satya Nadella’s cloud-first, mobile-first strategy is starting to take shape internally.

According to Microsoft, the API was built to provide “foundation to continue evolving the platform and enable all developers to access the full functionality of OneDrive.” Additionally, it provides better speed as well as functionality with these new features:

• the ability to retrieve new changes to files and folders to efficiently keep a large set of files in sync with minimal calls

• resumable uploads of files up to 10 GB via file-fragment uploading for working with rich content, like HD videos

• customizable file thumbnail images for delivering a more integrated experience across your app and OneDrive

Microsoft says they are internally also using the this very same API for all their apps, so whenever new OneDrive features roll out, third-party developers will have access to them at the same time as Microsoft.

The new API has a lot of potential and the team behind it is super excited. Ryan Gregg, OneDrive Program Manager says “The OneDrive API is a major step toward making the platform more accessible and powerful, but this is only the beginning. We are working on a lot of other improvements and features that we will release throughout the year. So stay tuned for more…a lot more.”

For more info on the OneDrive API, go to http://aka.ms/OneDriveAPI

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft adds ink support in OneNote for iPad and updates all versions with OCR

onenote ipad ink2

Microsoft is big on ink support and has been creating some incredible experiences on Windows with OneNote and the Surface Pen.  Although the iPad doesn’t have support for a pen like the Surface, it does however have support for the standard tablet stylus, and you’ll be able to use it effectively in OneNote now.

Microsoft had just updated the iPad version of OneNote with ink support.  Windows has supported inking since 2003 and has had a lot of experience with digital inking, and through this learning experience was able to deliver a fantastic inking experience on the iPad despite the lack of a Surface-style pen.

onenote ipad ink3

One of the neat things about writing on the screen is the ability to select the writing posture of your choice by tapping the palm rejection icon and selecting the writing style that best matches your own.  This is a great way to make writing on a tablet feel much more natural and once you get accustomed to it, it becomes second nature.

Another improvement that Microsoft has just made with OneNote is the introduction of OCR which stand for Optical Character Recognition.  This feature is available on all versions of OneNote for all devices and makes searching for text in the images you uploaded to any OneNote notebook on OneDrive a very easy and intuitive experience.

onenote ocr

This is an absolutely incredible feature for people uploading images of receipts, recipes,  shopping lists and other images with text.  Searching for individual items such as “strawberries” you purchased at your grocery store will pull up the exact receipt and highlight the text for you. How cool is that!?  The images you upload to a notebook will start showing up in search results within a few minutes.

OneNote recognizes printed text in many languages, and we’re continuously adding support for more.

This is a very useful feature and one that will improve over time into something even greater and will allow you to search for older images that have been uploaded in the past, not just new images that are uploaded since the availability of the feature.  This feature will also come to OneDrive for business in the coming months.

Take a look at the video below which demonstrates some of the new possibilities of ink support on the iPad.

Source: Office Blogs

Microsoft opens up their Office mobile apps to iCloud, Google Drive and Box

office_for_ipadAs Microsoft looks to broaden their mobile reach, the software giant today announced their iOS Office apps will soon be open to all cloud storage providers including iCloud, Google Drive and Box. Microsoft has already opened up to Dropbox in a partnership announced in November.

OneDrive used to be the only cloud solution iOS Office users had to back up their documents and files, but now Microsoft has opened the gates for native 3rd party cloud integration into their iOS Office apps. Microsoft is also looking to expanding this initiative to Android and Windows 10 in the future.

According to a recent post on OfficeBlogs, Microsoft says “While we’re announcing availability of the iPad and iPhone integration today, we’re hard at work on the same type of integration for the Office universal apps for Windows 10 and the Office for Android apps. So in the future, no matter what device, platform, or storage provider you’re using, your Office documents will only be a tap away.”

Traditionally Microsoft has shied away from partnering with such competitors, but as the company looks to expand its mobile offerings under the new leadership of Satya Nadella, we’ll be seeing more of such moves that would have been unheard of just couple of years back. As part of the “mobile-first, cloud-first” strategy, Microsoft is committed to provide “flexibility to get things done from anywhere and on any device.”

Additionally, Microsoft is making it possible to integrate Office Online into more cloud service apps. As part of Microsoft’s new Cloud Storage Partner Program, many providers including Box, Citrix, and Salesforce have already enrolled and more are expected to follow suit. The web-version of the popular productivity suite will “enable users to open, view, and edit documents stored in those services in any web browser.”

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft is preparing a major Xbox One app push with Universal Windows 10 apps

Win10_Xbox_Devices_PrintWindows 10 is set to become a truly universal OS across all of Microsoft’s platforms and it will soon start to make its way into the Xbox One. According to The Verge, Microsoft is planning to open up the Xbox One in a big way as the Universal app strategy starts to take place.

The software giant will fully unveil its plans on how app development on the Xbox One will work at their Build developer conference which runs from April 29 to May 1, and it’s expected that the company will also allow developers to turn a retail Xbox One into a development kit. Microsoft is expected to “publish an SDK preview in May alongside the retail to dev kit switch,” according to the report.

With the SDK preview becoming available in May, developers will be able to start building apps in the summer timeframe. In November, Microsoft will switch over to Universal apps which will start to significantly  increase the number of apps available on the platform. This means that apps written for the Xbox One will use the new Universal app SDK as Xbox One gets updated to Windows 10, and developers will be able to target any Microsoft device and deliver tailored experience to all users.

Apps currently written for the Xbox One are restricted to a very small group of developers but this new program will open up the possibility to everyone. In addition, Xbox One apps will now be able to run in the background, allowing music to be played while playing a game.

The Xbox One is already a state-of-the-art entertainment box, but with it being open to development in such a way, it will grow significantly in this regard.

Source: The Verge

Upload Studio 2.0 for Xbox One brings redesigned UI and slew of new features

Xbox One’s Upload Studio is one of the most popular features on the console as millions of clips have been recorded, edited and shared since the app first launched.

Based on community input, Upload Studio has now received a major update that brings the following new features and improvements and rounds off the app version number to 2.0.

– Redesigned interface with new navigation & options
– Create videos with up to 15 clips plus new run-time maximum of 30 minutes
– Access to editing features such as transitions, title cards, intros, effects, splashcreens, and templates
– Add text and voice overlays to any clip within your video

Also take a look at Major Nelson’s video (above) for more info and in-depth look at the updates.

Source: Major Nelson

Samsung Galaxy S6 rumored to ship with bundled Microsoft apps

samsung-galaxy-s6-czarnyThere are rumors floating around today that Samsung is looking to ditch its own bundled Android apps that many consider “bloatware” and replace them with Microsoft’s suite of apps starting with the Galaxy S6 device.

Considering Microsoft and Samsung have just recently settled their long-standing licensing dispute and the details of the settlement have not been made public, this sort of arrangement between the two tech giants is very plausible. This deal would just make logical sense considering Microsoft’s apps are very popular on Android and Samsung’s currently bundled apps are just not a hit with the consumers.

Many are speculating that Microsoft’s OneDrive, Skype and Office 365 (including 1 year of free subscription) are just some of the apps & services that may be bundled on Samsung Galaxy S6.

But as it stands for now, this is just a rumor and should be treated as such. We may find out more on March 1st at the Mobile World Congress where Samsung will be holding a press event.