Tag Archives: microsoft

New Windows Phone 8.1 OS Features

 

Microsoft updated its mobile game against Apple and Google with a few additions to its Windows Phone OS. At its Build 2014 Developers Conference in San Francisco, Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1, an update to its mobile OS that introduces a Siri-like Cortana service, a new app store and one-swipe access to Action Center — a spot to view notifications from any app and access phone settings.

There are lot of new additions to keep Windows Phone fans happy, but developers and enterprise also will be pleased that the new OS is now free on all sub-9-inch devices and comes with a bevy of mobile-device management capabilities.

Microsoft said it will release the Windows Phone 8.1 preview software to developers on April 14, and consumers can expect to see it in the April and May time frame.  Here is a closer look at 10 of the coolest new features Microsoft brings to its mobile OS.

1. CortanaYour PERSONAL Digital Assistant

Powered by Bing, Cortana is the only digital assistant that gets to know you, builds a relationship that you can trust, and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something. She detects and monitors the stuff you care about, looks out for you throughout the day, and helps filter out the noise so you can focus on what matters to you. Cortana will launch shortly in the U.S. first as a “beta,” and then will launch in the US, the U.K. and China in the second half of 2014 with other countries to follow afterwards into 2015.

Cortana1

In Windows Phone 8.1, you get to Cortana by either a Live Tile on your Start screen or by pressing the search button on your device. This will take you to Cortana Home. To interact with Cortana, you can either speak or type—if you’re in a meeting, just type and Cortana won’t talk out loud. But if you ask her a spoken question, she’ll answer verbally and even carry on a natural conversation.

When you interact with Cortana for the VERY first time, she will start learning things about you… like your name, how to pronounce it, and ask for some personal interests.

2. Enterprise-Friendly

Microsoft warms up to the enterprise with new customizable mobile-device management enrollment options and support for more MDM policies. Also added is VPN and S/MIME support. Other key MDM enhancements include the ability to configure Windows Store app whitelists or blacklists, URL filters and Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer settings.

3. Action Center

Live Tiles are a great way to “glance and go,” and now Microsoft has added Action Center to enable you to see notifications from ANY app – pinned or not—and to give you a customizable way to quickly access the settings you care about most, like Wi-Fi, Flight Mode, Bluetooth and Rotation Lock.

action centre

4. Windows Store Update

The Windows Phone app store gets a redesign that provides faster access to apps. The Windows Store app is now pinned to the taskbar by default. You also can now find, discover and run apps straight from the Start menu on Windows 8.1.

storestarscreen

5. Windows Phone’s Four New Senses

Data Sense lets you track how much data usage you use in a given month and will give you a breakdown of usage by app so you can see which app is using the most of your data. As you near your data limit, Data Sense will more aggressively offload data to Wi-Fi and limit cellular usage… and in 8.1 there’s a new “high savings” mode that cranks up the compression of images as you browse the web so you can browse even farther using less data than WP8.

datasense

Wi-Fi Sense will automatically connect you to free public hotspots it finds to help you save cellular data. And, if you’d like, you can opt-in to automatically and securely enable your friends and contacts to auto-connect to your home Wi-Fi, so they can use the internet connection at your house without hassling you for the password and typing it in manually. If you turn off Wi-Fi in Wi-Fi Sense, you can have Cortana automatically turn it back on when you reach one of your favorite places as identified in Cortana.

wifisense

Storage Sense to help you get the most out of the memory and storage on your phone. It will help you manage content you have on an SD memory card if your device supports those. You can also move content – like apps, music, photos – between the storage built in to your device and an SD memory card.

storage sense

Battery Saver gives you a clear breakdown of how apps are using your battery so you can make more informed usage decisions. With “automatic mode” enabled, it can dramatically extend your battery life.

battery

6. Calendar

Microsoft gives Calendar a much-needed update, now allowing you to swipe through dates left to right along with adding one-week views. Small weather icons populate the dates. Also, Cortana integrates with calendar so you can schedule events through voice commands.

calendar

7. Internet Explorer

The mobile version of Internet Explorer 11 heads to Windows Phone 8.1, adding HTML improvements such as in-line video playback and adaptive bit-rate streaming. The addition of IE 11 also adds InPrivate tabs, password caching and a new Reading View mode.

8. Customization(Lock Screen)

Microsoft clearly spent time adding personalization tools that allow you to do things such as deeper customization options for home screens. Now you can add more tiles, customize images or customize the colors of live tiles. The lock-screen also can be customized with a host of new lock-screen themes that include images along with animations. The start screen allows three columns of tiles instead of two.

lockscreen

9. Word Flow Keyboard

keyboard in Windows Phone is smart enough to learn your writing style and even knows the names of people in your contacts for faster typing. Best of all, our new Word Flow Keyboard lets you glide your fingers over the keys to type INCREDIBLY quickly…

word-flow-keyboard lumia

10. Start Screen

starscreen

Build 2014–Observations

 

Universal projects in Visual Studio: Developers can create universal projects that share code between Windows Store applications and Windows Phone applications. Microsoft unified the platform so that you can build one application and let you target all the devices in the Windows ecosystem. With this update to Visual Studio, developers can now just open a new project, write their code once and then compile it for Windows Phone 8.1 or as a desktop or tablet app. This, gives developers a single set of tools that spans devices and the cloud.

universal_app_visual_studio

Because Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 share the same Windows Runtime, Visual Studio now allows developers to create universal Windows projects that enable developers to build apps that support all Windows devices from a single Visual Studio project and share most of their code. Download release candidate (RC) for Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 from http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=42307

Developers who have built apps for Windows 8.1 will find it fairly easy to reuse their work and bring tailored experiences to Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8 developers can use the same code, and also access new features, when they develop for Windows Phone 8.1.

The update also includes some new diagnostic tools for Windows Phone developers. Specifically, developers can now more easily track memory usage and the combined UI responsiveness, energy consumption and CPU utilization.

.NET native code compilation: There is now support for.NET native code compilation for Windows and Windows Phone. .NET was always a very productive language to program in, but it didn’t always deliver the performance we were looking for. With the .NET native ahead-of-time compiler, developers will see faster startup times, lower memory usage and overall better performance, Microsoft promises. This new feature is currently in preview and allows developers to target both the X64 and ARM platforms.

Cortana: Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8.1 and introduced Cortana, a personal digital assistant. Powered by Bing, Cortana gets to know you and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something. Windows Phone developers can now also integrate their apps with Microsoft’s new personal assistant.

Other new features that make Windows Phone 8.1 smartphones even more personal include Action Center, which complements Live Tiles by showing new activities and notifications at a glance; and Senses, a suite of features that takes the work out of managing data use, storage space and battery life.

Even Cortana delivers developer extensibility. Cortana brings a significant evolution of the speech technology developed by Windows and Bing, which first appeared in Windows Phone 8. In Windows Phone 8.1 we expose new enhancements to the Speech API that developers can use to integrate their apps with the Cortana family of services. Developers can now leverage speech recognition and voice commands to denote a series of actions triggered by heuristically derived scenarios that are surfaced through the Cortana speech recognition service. Fewer steps and more types of natural verbal exchanges open more apps. All of this is delivered through a simple API so developers who use Windows Phone 8 speech features today can plug into Cortana with little additional effort.

When I started using Visual Studio 2013, I noticed that some numbers kept appearing at the top left and top right corners of the Window when I ran the app in Debug mode.  Something like this:

VS2013 Digits

The same sort of thing on the right top side too (not shown in the screen shot).   I could see that the values changed when I moved the mouse in a way that affected the controls on screen, but they clearly weren’t changes in mouse position.

It turns out that the display is showing the current frame counter rate.  And while this might be handy when you’re testing or fine tuning an app, it isn’t something I’d want to see all the time.

So if you want to turn this off, go to the App.xaml.vb file, find the OnLaunched event handler and change the setting for EnableFrameRateCounter from True to False, as shown below:

If Debug

Windows 8 App developers – Identify and value your IP – free of charge

Microsoft and Inngot are implementing a new programme to support the Windows 8 community in making more of its intellectual property.

Windows 8 will be the first release to feature ‘apps’. Microsoft is looking to help app developers get off to the best possible start by understanding the full range of assets they are creating, and how much these can be worth to their business. In most cases, apps involve a bundle of IP – not just software code, but brands, distinctive designs and characters, and potentially vast user bases. Many apps have spawned entire franchises and become global properties which require careful management to protect and exploit them.

Microsoft is providing 100 members of the Elite club developing apps for Windows 8 with an opportunity to identify your intellectual property (IP) and intangible assets, and find out what they are worth – at no charge. Don’t delay – we only have 100 profiling and valuation packages on offer, and they are available on a first come, first served basis, for a limited time period. Click here to redeem your code now.

Microsoft Creates Bing Fund to Nurture Innovation Startups

Microsoft Launches Bing Fund, An Angel Investor With An Incubator

Microsoft on July 12 announced its new program from Bing division called Bing Fund.  Bing Fund describes itself as an Angel Investor with an incubator. That pretty much explains everything. Bing Fund is looking for startups that are building online or mobile experiences that incorporate fresh insights. Microsoft will offer the startup with the following

  • The opportunity to access certain technology assets developed by Microsoft Research
  • Assistance from Bing Fund team members who specialize in design, engineering, marketing, and building businesses
  • Consultations with Subject Matter Experts at Microsoft, some of whom are world experts in their areas
  • Exposure to Microsoft executives
  • Connections with our partners and customers
  • Funding
  • Co-workspace for startups located in the Seattle area.

Below is the Information about seeking Bing Fund:

We’re inviting promising startups based in the U.S. to work with us for at least four months. Instead of following a class format, we’ll evaluate and accept candidates on an ongoing basis. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Startups that are building online or mobile experiences that incorporate fresh insights.
  • We want startups with both inspirational vision and ability to execute
  • A working prototype, preferably a site or application and gaining momentum
  • A compelling business plan that describes the problem being solved, a general idea of the market potential/competitive landscape, and unique market advantages

“Our program is tapping the creative energy of startups, small and agile risk takers, and we’re backing that creative energy with the vast experience Microsoft employees have in design, technology development and business strategy.” says Rahul.

Bing Fund Website @ http://www.bingfund.com/

FAQ @http://www.bing.com/community/Site_Blogs/b/thedetails/archive/2012/07/10/bing-fund-faqs.aspx

Announcement @ http://www.bing.com/community/Site_Blogs/b/search/archive/2012/07/12/bing-seeks-to-drive-innovation-with-bing-fund.aspx

Mobile Application Development : Design and Tools

In late 1990s and early 2000s, developers as well as users  were confused about the choice of the platform  for their applications. They had to decide a solution from two choices – (1) An installable PC based software or (2) a Web application. Web applications was the unpopular choice for a few reasons – among them, Bandwidth limitations and a general insecurity about how safe using a software on internet would be.

But as the years passed by, the requirements too changed. When people started working collaboratively, (which was made much easier with the internet and with bandwidth growth) people slowly started moving into web based applications. Web based Emails are possibly the first web applications used widely. Software companies started developing cross-browser compatible web applications. Now Web 2.0 has changed the perspective of ’software’ totally. And Hybrid applications became possible with APIs etc.

Likewise, in Mobile development, there are three ways to create  applications. (1)Installable (or Native) Mobile applications. (2)Mobile browser based applications – which are websites optimized for Mobile browsers and (3) Hybrid mobile applications.

Three Design Approaches – Native, Web or Hybrid(blended)
Native – Performance, offline mode, findability, device attributes and monetization

Native design builds the code using the code library provided by the phone vendor.  Four primary targets are IPhone, Android, MS Windows Mobile and Blackberry. Native (installable) applications resides in your cell phone, and you  launch it directly from there, with whatever search parameters  are stored within your mobile (E.g.. The names of the 50 states in the USA, your favorite locations, daily weather, etc.). Except for free text search, all of  the search parameters can be stored in the mobile – OR they can be updated just one time.  The communication between the Data/Web server and the mobile phone could be drastically reduced. An application like a stock portfolio can be created within your Phone and stored. Every day you just need to update the stock prices. You need not download the entire portfolio each day. Also, the application resides within the phone, and can access your phone’s features such as your camera, phone book /contacts, etc. The disadvantage is obviously the development cost. No two mobile platforms can share the same mobile application, and there are too many Mobile operating systems (or platforms) existing in the market. If you develop a mobile application to market it widely, you need to develop that in J2ME (for phones that support only Java with no loaded OS), Symbian, Mac iPhone, Android, RIM, WebOS( for Palm pre), LinMo and Windows mobile.

Pros:

  • Application runs faster
  • Able to run offline (provided that all the needed data can exist on the device)
  • Able to use all the phone capabilities – e.g. Shake, Accelerometer, Camera,

Cons:

  • Need to build for each target platform
  • Must deploy like Client server.
  • IPhone Apple Store is controlled by Apple
Web

Web based applications are built using a web toolkit.  Nothing is loaded on the device.  It uses the device browser to load and run the application.  It can be shown as an icon on the desktop that links the web server. The advantage of a mobile browser based application is the low development cost, and the disadvantage is the bandwidth limitations and the limitations of Mobile websites, which does not access your Phone’s components like your Address book, Camera, etc. Mobile Brower based applications are slow due to the bandwidth limitations and will eat up your data usage in your phone plan. Also, the user needs to remember the URLs and type it, which every cell phone user knows is just plain  hard. One advantage is that the development cost is low since the developer only needs to consider how to make it compatible with most mobile browsers, and not each type of cell phone. Also, now that many Mobile browsers support HTML and smart phones come with bigger screens to see full sized websites, and users can zoom in and out. We have keyboards too to manage this. But, if you want to browse websites, you can do that in your tiny Netbook, which you always carry with you, right?

Pros:

  • Build once for multiple target platforms
  • Deploy changes on the server side with no client changes

Cons:

  • Some limitations on functionality and features.
  • Lower performance
  • Cant run offline
Hybrid

They are Applications that use BOTH browser interfaces and native mobile components. The blended model builds a native application but uses HTML to provide some content and features. With HTML5 and JQuery, now the browsers are becoming capable of accessing a phone’s built in features like contacts, camera etc. Finally, what would be the disadvantages of  hybrid mobile applications? Two things comes to my mind…(1) Application security, and (2) the learning curve for the developers. Mobile developers need to know HTML and Web developers need to know mobile phone APIs.

Pros:

  • Existing web content (IF implemented properly) can be reused to reduce costs of native development
  • Maintenance overhead potentially reduced by less frequent updates

Cons:

  • It has all the drawbacks of native development, although potentially diminished (this depends on how much of the functionality is in the native portion of the app and how much is in the web content portion)
  • Properly designed web apps that can be reused without overhead are more of an ideal than reality

Following is the chart of different mobile development approaches used in the industry.

image

Some of the concerns for the business managers are:

  • Disconnected operation IS a big deal. Not for the business traveler so much, but for the people at the jobsite and the people working away from the office on a regular basis. On the jobsite, wireless coverage is often limited, particularly in remote areas and inside structures. For mobile workers (FedEx delivery people, telecoms workers, etc.) wireless access might not be guaranteed. With web-based mobile apps, no connectivity means the applications just won’t run. With proper design, native apps can always be accessible, even though the user may have to defer connectivity until he returns to the office.
  • The mobile apps will have narrow functionality. The best approach is to have a large number of small apps, rather than the traditional model of large applications with tons of functionality. This narrow functionality in turn results in a very narrow user base for each app, which in turn minimizes the need for apps than run on any device. There won’t be many apps that will have wide spread usage.
  • Designing for the lowest common denominator will mean that all applications will have limited functionality. To me, it makes a lot more sense to evaluate each app on an individual basis, rather than trying to come up with a one size fits all model. For an app with a broad user base, it makes sense to build something that will run on any device. But to say that an app used by 1% of the workforce has to sacrifice functionality and usability just so everyone can run it from their own personal devices doesn’t make sense.

The bottom line –

  • Go native on apps with narrow (small user base) functionality, and issue standard devices (one or two standard device types) to the users that run those apps
  • Go web on apps with a large user base, and let the users install the apps on their own devices
  • Hybrid apps are yet to see the light but I believe this is where the future is…

The choice of platform solely depends on your goals. You need a UI that is either:

1. truly usable
2. inexpensive

For option 1, native is the best solution; web is ruled out by its inability to optimally exploit the device.
For option 2, web is the best solution; native is ruled out by its costs; it is to be mentioned though, the price for this is a very austere UI.

Native Application are comparatively easier to maintain, whereas application written to run across multiple platforms may have complex code thus maintenance may not be that simple and testing will have to be intense to ensure a fix for particular platform does not impact anything else.

The advantage of non-native applications is one code base. one iteration of fix will take care of multiple platforms.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. – Theodore M. Hesburgh