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Highlights from Microsoft's Build 2014 Opening Keynote

by Jeff Martin on Apr 02, 2014 |

Microsoft’s Build conference began today with a series of fast-paced announcements and presentations by several key personnel demonstrating the company’s shift to open Windows to the entire platform.  What follows is a running diary of the major announcements made today.  We will be posting updates as these details are expanded on in detail.

 

Joe Belfiore, CVP Operating Systems Group, started the keynote by talking about Windows Phone 8.1.  This update brings several usability enhancements to the phone’s OS, including more personalization and customization for the lock and start screens.  The biggest addition is the arrival of Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri voice recognition system on the iPhone.

 

Brief overview of the new features of Windows Phone 8.1:

Action center  (pull down from the top)

  • Battery life
  • Can use dual SIM cards
  • Quick settings – wifi / Bluetooth / airplane mode / etc
  • Internet Sharing 

Personalize lock & Start screens

  • New APIs to customize lock screen
  • Customize number /size amount of icons
  • Customize wallpaper that the tiles display on

Cortana

  • Presence as a Live tile
  • Cortana can be extended with 3rd party apps
  • Supports creating speech enabled 3rd party apps
  • Cortana’s stores user personalization information in the notebook, which allows users to customize what items Cortana knows about.

Wi-Fi Sense

  • Simplify connecting to Wi-fi networks
    • Allows auto-accepting Terms of Use when required
    • Can provided name/email/ phone number when required, also can be edited
  • Can automatically share Wi-fi passwords with approved contacts ( Outlook.com / Skype contacts / Facebook friends).  Shared transparently between machines, but the user never actually sees the password.

The enhancements to Windows Phone 8.1 are not limited to the end user.  Nick Hedderman, Senior Product Manager demonstrated several new phone management features for corporate phone administrators:

 

Windows Phone 8.1 for Business

  • Enroll device into a corporate role (even if the one previously was setup for personal-use only)
  • Support Enterprise VPN
  • S/MIME
    • Signed and encrypt emails
  • Can disable local downloading of files.
  • Can deny apps from running on a phone, even existing installed apps already on the phone
  • When a user leaves the corporation or switches devices, the corporate management is completely removed.  App permissions are restored, VPN removed, etc

 

Moving beyond the updates for Windows Phone 8.1, the keynote then moved to the forthcoming Update for Windows 8.1.  This Update will be made available for free to all Windows 8.X users on April 8.  InfoQ has more information on the universal Windows app, supporting Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 in a separate article.

 

Windows 8.1 Update 1

Cortana on the phone and Bing on desktop share user details (when you are logged in to Bing).

  • Windows Task bar can have apps pinned to it
    • This includes displaying their live tiles on the Start menu
  • Switch between apps whether they are Modern of Win32 desktop apps
  • Doesn’t affect the changes / operation for touch based operations
  • New PC Settings tile
    • Provides natural/familiar home for PC settings
  • Power button and search button display on Start screen by default
  • Right-click context menu to resize / pin to taskbar
  • Control click to select multiple tiles and move them around en masse
  • Improving Windows Store update to mouse & keyboard friendly
  • New apps are highlighted in the All Apps list when they are added so they are not as easy to overlook when added

 

WinJS is now open source (under the Apache license) and going cross-platform.  Joining this announcement is the availability of Windows 8.1 Update on MSDN.  VS2013 Update 2 RC is publicly available for all versions (paid and express) of Visual Studio.  Windows Phone 8.1 will be available for developers later this month.

 

Stephen Elop, EVP of Nokia presented several new phone types, including the new flagship device, the Nokia Lumia 930.  This will be made available in June for $599.  The Lumia 630 and Lumia 635 will target the lower end of the market, but still include a 1.2GHz quadcore SnapDragon processor.  The 630 will be available in a dual-SIM card model.  Prices range from $159 to approximately $189.

 

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella concluded the keynote by addressing some prerecorded user questions.  The main theme of his comments was that he wants Microsoft to operate as a challenger to the current market rather than as an incumbent.  

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