Microsoft working on a game changer to bring more apps in the Windows ecosystem

windows 10 family1Microsoft just recently posted a job listing which has an intriguing invitation for its applicants. The invite is for them to apply for a job in which a team is working on creating something “game changing” in bringing apps to the Windows platform.  It’s a pretty well-known fact that the Windows app store lags behind the iOS and Android app stores and it looks like Microsoft is very well aware of that and has a plan.

We all know by now that Windows 10 is unifying all the Windows app stores across phones, tablets, PCs, Xbox, IOT devices and even its giant Surface Hub just unveiled recently.  Microsoft is making it very easy for developers to create universal apps for the entire Microsoft ecosystem of devices and we have heard that they are working on ways which will make it easier for developers to port iOS and Android apps to the Windows platform and vice-versa.

This is a major step in achieving proper app support and excitement from developers who will now have a massive target audience as they target the entire Windows user-base across all device types.  This in-turn is an essential part in creating a viable and healthy 3rd ecosystem which is a daunting task these days.

However, Microsoft isn’t prepared to put all its eggs in one basket and surely has a plan B in case this doesn’t pan out as expected.  Plan B has to be the enabling of Android apps to run on Windows mobile devices, but if it comes to this, it must be implemented well.

Windows 10 will be a critical release for Microsoft and lots of planning and restructuring of the company has occurred in the process of what Windows 10 is set to be.  This release is aimed to change its perception among users and developers and it will be a very interesting time for the company and the tech industry to see what unfolds but everything so far looks like they have a winner on their hands.

Check out the job posting below:

 Do you want to be the game changer in bringing more apps to Windows platform?

Our team is building next generation application platform that will change how Windows devices and services are perceived and received by our customers and developers. We are enabling an app platform that can enrich Windows in incredibly fast and efficient ways for our developers.

We are looking for a Senior Program Manager with expertise on Windows as well as competitors app platforms. Do you have experience writing apps on different platforms? Would you be able to articulate the pros and cons of each platform’s APIs, tools, documents and release process? You do not need to know every competing platform, but do need to have a deeper understanding in at least one of the competitors app platforms and associated cloud services.

We are looking for people with a ‘can-do’ mindset, great interpersonal skills, and strong technical background to back it up. You’ll need to understand the details of your features and stretch from specs, to evangelism, to design, to owning integration across groups while working closely with development, quality, and management. You will need adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to acquire new skills on-the-fly. A proven track record of defining, designing, specifying, managing, and shipping hardware/software technologies is a must. We’re focused on shipping quickly and often in a V1 environment, so we’re looking for someone who can drive and make the right things happen when plans are changing and not all the systems are in place.

Mandatory qualifications

o   Proven Program Management of complex hardware and software integration projects

o   A strong technical background and the ability to “go deep” in your feature area

o   Relentless customer focus

o   Knowledge of the app market and industry, competitors and customer needs

o   Ability and vision to anticipate future demands and competitive trends

o   The ability to partner closely with internal and external partners

o   BA/BS degree in Computer Science or related technical equivalent and 6+ years of industry experience

Microsoft is an equal opportunity employer.  All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, national origin, marital status, age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, or any other protected status.

 

Source: Microsoft Careers via Neowin

 

Microsoft saw a 110% increase in app downloads & sales in the Windows app store for 2014

Windows FamilyWindows Phone had a rough start in sales during the first half of 2014 due to the uncertainty around the Nokia acquisition and lack of new devices.  With such a rough first half of the year, many negative articles started popping up and were beginning to write-off Microsoft’s mobile OS.  However, as Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services was completed, things started to look a lot more positive as sales started to pick up in Q3 2014 and many new devices hit the market.

Nevertheless, the slow sales in the first half of 2014 didn’t impact the massive amount of first-party apps and growth the Windows Phone Store had achieved, as 2014 provided the most significant increase in official apps the Windows Phone Store has ever seen. With Microsoft rallying developers for Windows 10 and the promise of Universal apps, Todd Brix, General Manager of Windows Apps and the Store Team has revealed some positive stats about the Windows App store:

“We began the year with a commitment to create opportunities for developers with Windows Store. We made good progress by both attracting over 30% more active users and by exceeding a 110% year-over-year increase in app downloads and gross sales. In addition the ecosystem has grown, with an 80% increase in registered developers and 60% increase in app selection year-over-year.”

He continued on to say that Microsoft’s goal in 2015 will be to provide a platform where developers can be successful, and the focus on Universal apps and the unified Windows 10 platforms will be a major factor in achieving that goal.

Brix talked about five key areas where Microsoft remains focused on helping developers stay on track and take advantage of Windows 10.  These areas include expanded payment options in emerging markets with carrier billing and enhanced monetization options of apps where the exec noted that “we are increasing our focus on in-app advertising to help improve fill rates and grow developer revenue.”

Increasing options for app discoverability with UI changes and offering more promotion for Windows apps are also important factors which he mentions. Brix finishes off with the final two key areas of focus which are to make the Windows platform accessible to all developer skill levels while simplifying and unifying app development to save developers time.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft prepping $100 Million in Windows Store gift cards for this holiday season

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In anticipation of a significant increase in app downloads from the Windows Store this holiday season, Microsoft is prepping $100 million (USD) in Windows Store gift cards which will be available to consumers to purchase content such as Windows Store apps, videos and music.

“We are anticipating roughly $100 million (USD) in Windows Store Gift Cards to be available in market, starting this holiday season for consumers to purchase Windows and Xbox apps, games, music and video content across 41 markets. This includes gift cards available for purchase in retail stores or electronically as well as those distributed as part of promotional offers from retail and hardware partners.”

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With an increase of Windows devices hitting the market this holiday season from various hardware manufactures and Microsoft (Lumia 830 AT&T & Lumia 535), there will be an increase in holiday promotions and advertising.  Microsoft will also not just advertise Windows devices, they’ll also advertise the Windows Store, and in the process the tech company has advised developers to have their creations ready to sell before Thanksgiving on Nov.19.

With recent complaints about app discoverability in the Windows Store, Microsoft says that they’ve added various improvements in helping users discover apps in a much more efficient way.  They also say that during the holiday season Windows Store app transactions increase by 2.5X in mature smartphone markets and 8X in emerging markets.

Source: Windows Blog

Calibrate your Surface Pro 3 pen in the just released Surface Hub app

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Microsoft has just released an app called Surface Hub in the Windows Store which enable users to customize certain features of the pen on Surface Pro 3.  This app will also work on other machines with a Stylus, but for now it only works with the latest Surface device.

You’ll be able to adjust the pressure sensitivity on your Surface Pen and select just which version of OneNote (modern or desktop version) the purple button on the pen opens when pressed.

You won’t be able to assign what the other buttons on the Surface Pen do yet, but we expect that Microsoft will enable this in a future update.

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In addition to the adjustments, the app features a Feedback screen in which you can rate how likely you would recommend the Surface Pro 3 on a one through ten scale. There’s also a section where you would explain why you chose the score and a check-box you could check off to allow Microsoft to contact you for more information on your experience with the Surface Pro 3.

Overall this is a good step in the right direction for Microsoft as the Surface pen is a very useful tool and allowing the user to tweak it even further could be very beneficial to some people.  However, in its current form the app is very basic and a work in progress, but it has potential.  We look forward to seeing how Microsoft evolves this app, as the possibility for adding even more Surface accessory customization is quite intriguing.

Download Surface app here for Windows 8.1

Microsoft's problems at Best Buy Windows stores

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of microsoftproductreviews.com, its staff, or any contributors to this site.

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Microsoft had a major issue in the way their products were displayed in retail stores before their recent expansion with dedicated Microsoft stores. Physical Microsoft retail stores have really helped Microsoft in connecting with the consumer face to face. They’re  fantastic showrooms for Microsoft products, and the sales staff couldn’t be better. However, there aren’t many Microsoft stores around, and their rate of expansion is too slow to overcome their retail short-comings. Microsoft looked to further expand their retail presence by building 600 dedicated Best Buy showrooms, called the “Windows Store”. However, it doesn’t seem to be helping their situation as much as they would hope.

In the past, Microsoft’s presence in Best Buy retail stores was horrific. Their PC section seemed shabby and run-down compared to Apple’s dedicated shiny Best Buy showroom. The PCs looked as if they were just thrown on a few small shelves, and it made them look completely undesirable. Many units couldn’t be turned on, and even the PCs that were beautiful went completely unnoticed, as their presentation by Best Buy was very unappealing. Purchasing and even playing with the PCs there made you feel like a second class citizen, as the shiny Apple showroom gleamed over you.

In June of 2013, Microsoft started a strategic partnership with Best Buy to create 600 Windows Stores across the US and Canada. Their stores are now 1,500 to 2,200 square feet in some of the bigger stores, and in most cases they now over-shadow the Apple showrooms. This is a tremendous retail opportunity for Microsoft, but there’s a problem I’ve noticed in my experience with the staff there, and that is that they are not good at selling Microsoft products.

In fact, many of the locations I visited have staff turning people away from Microsoft products, and steering them towards Apple. I have personally witnessed many instances where sales staff steer consumers who expressed genuine interest in the Surface 2, over to the iPad. I have seen it time and time again, and it makes me wonder just how well this retail strategy is working for Microsoft.

I have noticed a dedicated Apple specialist on busy days helping customers in the Apple section, and one is always present during busy shopping seasons. Why isn’t Microsoft doing this? A dedicated salesperson in every Windows Store helping the consumers understand Microsoft products can have tremendous positive effect for Microsoft and their products .  I found myself helping other customers at times while in the Windows Store, and they eventually confessed their frustration with the salespeople that either didn’t understand the product well, or just didn’t care enough to help. This is why having a dedicated Microsoft rep is critical.

Another problem with Windows Stores at Best Buy is the lack of Windows Phones on display. Of course Best Buy has a Best Buy Mobile section, and that’s where the Windows Phones would be, you would think. But they’re not,  there might be the occasional plastic dummy phone in some cases, however. What exactly is holding Microsoft back in placing Windows Phones in their dedicated Best Buy showrooms?

Microsoft is pushing the “One Windows” for all of your devices vision, and it’s something truly special that no other company can offer. However, they  aren’t displaying their smartphones, alongside their PCs and tablets.  Samsung has now created a Best Buy section as well, and it has plenty of Samsung Galaxies on display. Why is it that Microsoft, who needs to build up their mobile market share more than any other platform, is not displaying them in the very store dedicated to Windows products? And Why is it that Microsoft doesn’t have a dedicated sales rep that can help consumers by explaining the massive benefit of having Windows running on all their devices?

These are problems Microsoft needs to address, and fixing these issues can be a massive benefit for them, but leaving things the way they are is a wasted opportunity.

Have you had a similar experience at Best Buy Windows Store? Share them with us in the comments below.

AutoCAD 360 Free CAD viewer app is now available for Windows 8.1

autocad_360_windows_8The world’s leading 2D/3D Computer-Aided Design (CAD) & drafting company Autodesk Inc. today released AutoCAD 360 Free Tech Preview app for Windows 8.1. The app can be downloaded now from the Windows Store and it allows you to open and view DWG, DWF, and DXF files in either the offline or online mode.

Autodesk is committed to growing their Windows Store presence as the app description states “We would love to hear your feedback and ideas at: feedback@autocad360.com. Stay tuned for the upcoming versions with more features and functionalities!”

The 3D drafting app is available in English and Chinese and it fully supports Windows 8.1 OS running on x86, x64, and ARM equipped devices.

AutoCAD 360 Windows 8.1 app features:

• A free CAD viewer for Windows 8.1

• Allows to view DWG, DWF, and DXF files

• Layout control – Switch between model space and paper space

• Support both offline and online mode

• Fully synced with your AutoCAD 360 account

• Allows opening drawings stored on the device or uploading drawings through the AutoCAD 360 web-app at: www.autocad360.com

Download AutoCAD 360 for Windows 8.1 here

50-80% off Apps/Games for Windows/Windows Phone: Maps Pro, Rayman Fiesta Run & more

During this week’s Red Stripe Deals, Microsoft is offering some deep discounts (50-80% off!) for many great apps and games in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores. Here are the deals:

Rayman Fiesta Run

Rayman-Fiesta-Run_thumb_0E2476F4A follow-up to the popular Rayman Jungle Run, Rayman Fiesta Run has you lunging for cocktail umbrellas, leaping on limes, bouncing on sausages, and punching piñatas across more than 75 levels of fun! This week you can get it for 67% off—just $.99 on Windows, and $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Rayman Fiesta Run” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Rayman Fiesta Run” Here

Maps Pro

Maps-Pro_thumb_4182CB01Why buy another mapping app? Because Maps Pro isn’t limited to a single map source—it works with multiple mapping styles, like Google Street View, Nokia, OpenStreetMap, and Bing Maps. It also offers offline maps, and voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation with directions for driving, walking or cycling, and can interface directly with your external Bluetooth GPS device. This comprehensive mapping app is regularly priced at $4.99, but with 80% off this week, you can get it for just $.99 in the Windows Store.

Windows Store: Download “Maps Pro” Here

Skateboard Party 2

Skateboard-Party-2_thumb_3E72FDBDMaster over 40 skateboard tricks and hundreds of amazing combos. Use the tutorials in Skateboard Party 2 to practice and learn at your own pace, and then compete with other skaters online. Works with an Xbox game controller, on-screen touch controls, or accelerometer (tilt) controls, if your hardware supports it. Get it for 50% off this week, just $.99 on Windows as well as $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Skateboard Party 2” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Skateboard Party 2” Here

Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)

Enigmatis-2_thumb_189F680BThe second in the popular Enigmatis mystery series, The Mists of Ravenwood gives you lots of spooky details, stunning plot twists, and 55 beautifully hand-drawn locations set in the redwood forests of Northern California. Normally $6.99 on Windows, you can get it this week for half off: $3.49 on Windows and $1.49 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)” Here

Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery

Miriels-Enchanted-Mystery_thumb_40D431CEIn Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery, a charming casual time management game for kids 3 and up, you’ll bake bread, make potions and colored cloth, and use powerful spells to complete tasks. Once complete, you can use what you’ve earned to buy more products and skills and make things even more interesting. Download it for $1.49 on Windows and $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery” Here

Dictionary Pro

Dictionary-Pro_thumb_6255F20EThe super comprehensive Dictionary Pro app offers 14 languages online or offline, with instant translations, and (online only) access to medical, legal, and financial dictionaries, thesauri, acronyms, abbreviations, idioms, and encyclopedia content. You can also play word games, listen to audio pronunciations, and check out interesting daily articles on words and their origins. Get all of this, ad-free, for $1.99 on Windows.

Windows Store: Download “Dictionary Pro” Here

Source: Windows Blog

50-80% off Apps/Games for Windows/Windows Phone: Maps Pro, Rayman Fiesta Run & more

During this week’s Red Stripe Deals, Microsoft is offering some deep discounts (50-80% off!) for many great apps and games in the Windows and Windows Phone Stores. Here are the deals:

Rayman Fiesta Run

Rayman-Fiesta-Run_thumb_0E2476F4A follow-up to the popular Rayman Jungle Run, Rayman Fiesta Run has you lunging for cocktail umbrellas, leaping on limes, bouncing on sausages, and punching piñatas across more than 75 levels of fun! This week you can get it for 67% off—just $.99 on Windows, and $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Rayman Fiesta Run” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Rayman Fiesta Run” Here

Maps Pro

Maps-Pro_thumb_4182CB01Why buy another mapping app? Because Maps Pro isn’t limited to a single map source—it works with multiple mapping styles, like Google Street View, Nokia, OpenStreetMap, and Bing Maps. It also offers offline maps, and voice-guided turn-by-turn navigation with directions for driving, walking or cycling, and can interface directly with your external Bluetooth GPS device. This comprehensive mapping app is regularly priced at $4.99, but with 80% off this week, you can get it for just $.99 in the Windows Store.

Windows Store: Download “Maps Pro” Here

Skateboard Party 2

Skateboard-Party-2_thumb_3E72FDBDMaster over 40 skateboard tricks and hundreds of amazing combos. Use the tutorials in Skateboard Party 2 to practice and learn at your own pace, and then compete with other skaters online. Works with an Xbox game controller, on-screen touch controls, or accelerometer (tilt) controls, if your hardware supports it. Get it for 50% off this week, just $.99 on Windows as well as $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Skateboard Party 2” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Skateboard Party 2” Here

Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)

Enigmatis-2_thumb_189F680BThe second in the popular Enigmatis mystery series, The Mists of Ravenwood gives you lots of spooky details, stunning plot twists, and 55 beautifully hand-drawn locations set in the redwood forests of Northern California. Normally $6.99 on Windows, you can get it this week for half off: $3.49 on Windows and $1.49 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Enigmatis 2: The Mists of Ravenwood (Full)” Here

Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery

Miriels-Enchanted-Mystery_thumb_40D431CEIn Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery, a charming casual time management game for kids 3 and up, you’ll bake bread, make potions and colored cloth, and use powerful spells to complete tasks. Once complete, you can use what you’ve earned to buy more products and skills and make things even more interesting. Download it for $1.49 on Windows and $.99 on Windows Phone.

Windows Store: Download “Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery” Here
Windows Phone Store: Download “Miriel’s Enchanted Mystery” Here

Dictionary Pro

Dictionary-Pro_thumb_6255F20EThe super comprehensive Dictionary Pro app offers 14 languages online or offline, with instant translations, and (online only) access to medical, legal, and financial dictionaries, thesauri, acronyms, abbreviations, idioms, and encyclopedia content. You can also play word games, listen to audio pronunciations, and check out interesting daily articles on words and their origins. Get all of this, ad-free, for $1.99 on Windows.

Windows Store: Download “Dictionary Pro” Here

Source: Windows Blog

Official GoPro Channel App ready for download in the Windows Store

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The official GoPro Channel app has been released and is now available for download in the Windows Store. This app allows users to view extreme sports as if they were part of the action themselves. The photos and videos in this app give users either a first-person experience or as close to the high adrenaline performances as they can get. There is an array of extreme sports stunts to choose from, encompassing pretty much anything you can dream of.

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Users can also browse through the featured videos of the day or search by each sports category playlists and the app provides all the info on the latest cameras used for filming or specific shots taken. Users interested in learning more about this equipment or looking to purchase a new camera can head over to the store section of the app, where they will find all that and more.

“Welcome to the GoPro Channel on Windows 8.1. Watch the latest GoPro videos, and experience life as captured by the world’s most versatile camera. From skydiving to scuba diving, surfing to snowboarding, music to motorsports and beyond—whatever your passion, you’ll find it here. Come along for the ride, and get the gear you need to capture and share your own life with GoPro”

Universal INSTEON Home Automation Windows App now available

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INSTEON, the home automation company, has fulfilled its promise of releasing an app for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.1.  A month ago, the company spoke of releasing this app to allow users to control their lights, home security systems, wall switches, outlets and thermostats more efficiently using the INSTEON hardware. Through the app, users can have control over the lights inside and outside their house by scheduling and setting when they would like them to turn on and off.

The INSTEON Hub also alerts users with its water leak, motions and door/windows sensors. It sends a text or email alert to the user or anyone else they request, when one of these sensors has been triggered. The Hub can store sensor status information so users can check on the state of the sensors through the app whenever they want.

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The app is free to download in the Windows Phone Store. Here are some more features the app offers.

Easy Device Scheduling
Want to turn on your bedside lamp automatically to help wake you up in the morning? How about program the porch light to turn on and off automatically with the rise and fall of the sun? No problem.

Get Alerts
Create alerts by adding water leak sensors, motion sensors, door/window sensors and more. The INSTEON Hub will send text and email alerts to you as well as anyone else you wish. The Hub also stores the status of these sensors, so you can easily check on your sensors from within the app at anytime.

Stay Connected
Wonder what triggered the motion sensor or just want to check in on the kids or your pets? Add a wireless camera and you’ll see it all from your smartphone. The INSTEON cameras feature pan/tilt control and night vision. Setting up this camera within the INSTEON for Hub app is the easiest setup that you have ever seen!

Cloud-based Service
The INSTEON Hub stores your homes configuration in the cloud which allows access from any number of smartphones and tablets you may own. Add another smartphone by simply downloading the app, sign in and enjoy.

NO MONTHLY FEES
No monthly fees to view, control and monitor your home. Other systems on the market charge hundreds of dollars a year for services that you can enjoy for free with the INSTEON Hub.

Download INSTEON for Hub – Windows Phone 8 app
Download INSTEON for Hub – Windows 8.1 app

Source: Microsoft/INSTEON