Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Windows Phone Summit Highlights


As many of you already know, Microsoft just had their Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco. There was a lot of excitement and high expectations because of the promised sneak peek at the future of Windows Phone. If you haven’t already, you can watch the summit presentation on Channel 9.

If you want to get a sense of people’s reaction and the top highlights in the community after the announcements done today, just check out the Twitter Thread. It has been a busy and exciting week for Microsofties, especially after the new Surface announcement. 

The presentation was almost entirely focused on Windows Phone 8, the next version of the platform that should be launched along Windows 8. The biggest thing is as I suspected, a Shared Core between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, which effectively means that applications will be able to run seamlessly on any Windows 8 device, no matter if it is a phone, a tablet, or a full desktop PC. This is amazing news, because it will reduce the friction between the different experiences and will enable companies and developers to create just one application that will give users the same experience across devices. Of course, the user interface can be optimized for each screen and resolution, but functionality and implementation wise, it will be the same app.

The bad news is that Windows Phone 8 won’t be able to run in the current Windows Phone 7 hardware. This will be hard to swallow for companies selling Windows Phone 7 devices right now. On the other side, all Windows Phone 7 applications are supposed to be able to run on the new Windows Phone 8 OS and hardware, although it is not clear in the case of games, since everything is pointing to the death of XNA as a game development platform, which will be replaced by native code (C & C++) support. Although it might disappoint XNA developers, it will improve portability of games across platforms and we can expect game development companies to start porting their games from iOS and Android quite effortlessly. 

The hardware companies presented for the new Windows Phone 8 platform will be Nokia, Samsung, Huawei and HTC, all built on next-generation chips from Qualcomm. On the game development side, Havok will be one of the companies, along with Autodesk and a few others, bringing the whole suite of products and tools to Windows Phone 8. With this news, I really hope that Unity3D supports the new Windows Phone 8 platform soon!

As a short guide, Microsoft said the following:

  • Application Development: XAML + C#/VB
  • Game Development: Native Code – C/C++

There a lot to talk about and there are still a lot of questions, which hopefully, as we get closer to the launch date, they will be answered.

Here is my take on the Windows Phone 8 highlights:

  • Shared Core between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8: apps work on both devices, native communication, build once.
  • Integrated Skype Video Chat and Voice chat: available to devs and third party app developers.
  • Native Code Support: C&C++. Expect all iPhone and Android games ported right away (example: less than a week to port an iPhone app to a WP app).
  • Native NFC Support: adios QRCodes. That’s the trend, all new WP8 hardware will support it.
  • NFC wireless sharing across devices.
  • Native Wallet Experience: support for phone payments, secured SIM, Third Party Apps. Orange as first partner.
  • Wallet Experience: Credit & Debit Cards, Loyalty Cards & Membership Cards, Access Saved Deals, Secure NFC Payments (Tap to Pay), Secured SIM, Third Party Scenarios - Apps and Services.
  • Multi-Core support – Dual Core chipsets support.
  • Shared Driver Model: manufacturers create one driver for all devices.
  • Graphics acceleration.
  • Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 share exactly the same browser, IE10 (faster JS, better HTML5 support).
  • More screen resolution support: Increase screen resolutions: 800 x 480 - 15:9, 1280 x 768 - 15:9, 1280 x 720 - 16:9.
  • All new hardware supports MicroSD, which is interchangeable between PCs, Tablets and Phones – Storage scalability after purchase.
  • Direct3D Low Level APIs support – increased graphics, performance and portability.
  • Multi-user game experiences across devices over Wi-Fi – Peer-To-Peer communication which can be initiated by NFC taps.
  • Start Screen revamp: fully customizable tiles, colors and sizes.
  • Improved LOB deployment without Marketplace publishing.
  • Office and LOB apps native integration with the Company Hub/Windows Phone at Work experience.
  • Support for 50 languages and more than 180 countries.

There is also a short recap on the App Hub web site and Joe Belfiore published the announcement summary on the Windows Phone Blog.

There’s more coming for sure, and it will be interesting to see the evolution of the platform along with the reactions from companies, brands, press, developers and consumers. All in all, it looks promising for Microsoft and the Windows 8 ecosystem.

Cheers and thanks for stopping by!

Windows Phone Summit

Microsoft is two hours away from having its Windows Phone Summit. The promise is that they will give consumers and developers, a sneak peek of the future of Windows Phone. We are all hoping that we will get a glance of the next version, Windows Phone 8, also known as Apollo, which after the Surface announcement is bound to keep the momentum and the excitement in the Windows world.

The guys from already published an article with some especulations about what we will be able to see.

Make sure to watch the live stream on Channel 9 and be ready for a bit more awesomeness !

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Windows 8 is also for Web Devs!

Oh, did I forgot to mention it?

You all Web Gurus out there…yeah you all, you are automatically Windows 8 native app developers….did you knew that?

Well yeah, is true. In the upcoming months when somebody says: “hey we need an app that can run on a tablet and be really fast and responsive, and not only accept one or two touches, but at least five so we can play with gestures”…and later on they say “hey but we need the same experience to be portable to desktops and phones, and just do a little tweaking on the UI but reuse all the code behind”…and then somebody adds: “hey but we need to make sure the app runs on a huge multi-touch wall and allow multiple users to use it at the same time”…and even if that is not enough, another guy comes in and says “well I want to see some 3D goodness in it too” and you know a web app is not the right solution because of browser, performance, touch responsiveness or something like that, well it turns out that you, the web dev, can stand up and say “hey I can do that, I can do it using the stuff I know, HTML/CSS/JS, no problem” !

So, get started ! The more, the merrier !

More on Microsoft New Surface

The momentum is great, people are talking about the new Surface device all over the place, Facebook and Twitter are pounding the hashtags and .net devs feel excited and proud and full of really cool promises on the new generation of interactive, interconnected, touch devices !

To add more to it, I have watched the Microsoft's Press Conference Keynote, Engaged reviews, crowd comments and colleagues opinions. The keynote was nice and full of hardware technical stuff. As a developer I appreciate that, but honestly, from a consumer stand point, I would say that Ballmer and Sinofsky are quite lame presenting. Microsoft should invest some money in charismatic presenters. Also, the start button not working in Sinofsky's first part was a big drawback in people's eyes, especially consumers new to the Windows 8 proposal.

Anyway, despite the drawbacks of the presentation itself, the "Surface" hardware unveiling was actually quite exciting. Here are the highlights:

Surface will come in two variants:

Surface for Windows RT

Runs on an NVIDIA ARM processor, will run the Windows Touch mode only, will come in 34 GB and 64 GB solid state drives configuration. MicroSD port, USB 2.0 port and a nice HDMI output. 9.3 mm thick, around 1.5 pounds. This version should be available at the time when Windows 8 is launched, probably around September this year. The price was not revealed, but Microsoft claims that it will compete with other ARM based tablets already in the market. Maybe around $600. More details here on Engaged.

Surface for Windows 8 Pro

Runs on Intel based Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, and will run both the Windows 8 touch and desktop modes. It will be available in 64 GB and 128 GB configurations. Full HD display. It comes with HDMI output and USB 3.0 port.  It is around 13.5 mm thick and weights less than 2 pounds. Supports Pen interaction (which can be nicely attached to the tablet case) and provides digital inking interactions to annotate digital documents and pen interaction detection that will disable touch input to allow users to comfortably write on documents on display. The venting solution is refreshing and innovative, providing a perimeter venting all around the case, that according to Microsoft, won't be felt when holding it. It is supposed to be released three months after the Windows 8 launch, and Microsoft said the price will compete with market ultra-books, so I'd expect the price to be around $1000.

Both versions come with an innovative, robust yet sleek magnesium case using a technology called VaporMG. Both come with second generation Gorilla Glass technology, front and rear cameras (which is clearly a must for any new tablet these days) and a dual array of mic and speakers. Both come with twin 2x2 MIMO antennas for maximizing WiFi connectivity and performance. Although still yet to be confirmed on the final product launch it is said that the viewing angle is really good allowing multiple people to watch at the same time, which will be a great advantage over most tablets currently in the market, including Android and iPad devices. Each tablet has a build-in magnesium stand, which appears to be robust enough and when folded is practically undetectable.

Along with the tablets, Microsoft will be releasing a newly invented ultra-thin keyboard covers that attach magnetically to the tablet. There are two versions. One that is super thin touch like cover, and another slightly thicker with physical 3d keyboards that are supposed to be better for touch typing. Both attach magnetically to the tablet in the same way, and the touch type one is able to fold back. Microsoft said that the touch types have accelerometers embedded that can detect when the keyboard is fold back so the input is disabled.

Let me close with this: "Because of Windows 8, the Surface IS a PC. The Surface IS a table"

Enjoy the Windows 8 goodness!

The New Microsoft Windows Surface

Today is a really exciting day!

Microsoft just released its own new Windows 8 & Windows RT Surface device!

Microsoft has a long history on mobile experiences and interconnected platforms. In the past decade the company did a lot of investment in natural user interfaces research, releasing top notch front end technologies for creating touch interfaces.

Surface has been the premium Microsoft’s product completely focused on the touch experience.  Surface comes directly from Microsoft’s Research Labs. The concept stated to take form in October 2001. After five years, Microsoft released the first super version of the Surface table back in 2005, and then the second generation recently in early 2012. Although most people saw it as a failed consumer product, the reality is that Microsoft has been testing different technologies, hardware in software aiming to achieve a true interconnected seamless platform.

Yes, they learned from previous failures (Microsoft was one of the first attempting interconnected platforms and mobile experiences), and certainly have learned from Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook. Technologies like WPF, Silverlight, XNA and all the related technologies have been polishing, improving and evolving for the outcome that we can see today.

I truly believe that this will change the game; it will bring more balance to the mobile and tablet market, and overall consumer experiences.

Ok, that’s the inspirational intro, now check it out. Here's the Surface Site, and here is the Video.

Now, let's take a closer look!

The Surface comes in two versions: Windows RT and Windows 8. Basically the same Windows 8 touch experience. The Windows RT version is lighter, runs on ARM, and can’t run the desktop mode. The Windows 8 version is a heavier, more powerful and runs both the desktop and the touch mode. I’d assume that Windows RT will be recommended for casual users, and the Windows 8 version for power users.
You can get the tech specs here

The price hasn’t been announced yet, and is to expect that it will take a few months to get it, since we have to wait for the Windows 8 launch. However the new Surface will become quite a powerful and handy device in the Microsoft ecosystem, especially if you take into account that is expected that the next version of Windows Phone integrates even more seamlessly with Windows 8. Add the Xbox hub integration, the upcoming SmartGlasstechnology, the plans for Xbox to enhance its entertainment offering, and the cloud services and seamless synchronization of user information based on the unique Windows Live ID and you get the best interconnected platform in the market!

And for those of you wondering about the PixelSense SurfaceSUR40 device, don’t panic. The hardware and the technology are still there, alive and kicking, and it won’t go away. Although some people might differ, I think that it was a good move to grab the “Surface” name for the tablet, and push the “PixelSense” name for the SUR40 device, since basically is PixelSense that drives the hardware experience.

I’m really excited about the news. Since I started to work on the first version of Surface, I realized that Microsoft really needed to bring its capabilities to a portable device, exactly like the tablet they just released. The new Surface is not a big phone, or a small PC, is a full featured touch centric experience based on a completely new operating system. Windows 8 is not an upgraded version of Windows 7, is actually a new fast, fluid and responsive platform that provides a seamless ecosystem for the Windows devices. The best part for us developers? Is full C #goodness, no new language or skillset to learn, we are automatically touch centric Windows 8 developers. More on this to come!

Update: Here you can find the Microsoft Official Press Release