The Invoke Smart Speaker Brings Microsoft’s Cortana AI to Your Living Room

Invoke-Cortana

Cortana virtual assistant already integrates into Windows 10, works on iOS and Android, and will start showing up in cars soon, it’s ready for your home with Invoke. It's good for work, good for play, even has a cool name.

The new Invoke speaker, made by Harman Kardon, is more or less a direct copy of the Amazon Echo - a tall, cylindrical speaker with a blue light at the top that glows when the speaker is listening to you. It can control some of your smart-home devices, set reminders, name the members of One Direction (RIP), and many other things Echo can also do. So far, the Invoke appears to have exactly one unique feature: It can make and receive calls with Skype.

Microsoft release new XAML Controls Gallery app to help developers implement Fluent Design

xalm-controls-gallery

Microsoft is hoping developers will be updating their UWP apps en masse to support their new Fluent Design language, and to help them along Microsoft has published an app in the store that demonstrates all the controls available.

XAML Controls Gallery” demonstrates all of the controls available in Fluent Design System and XAML. It’s the interactive companion to the Fluent Design System web site which can be seen here.

According to Microsoft, the new Microsoft Fluent Design System will deliver “intuitive, harmonious, responsive and inclusive cross-device experiences and interactions” for users. As for developers, the Microsoft Fluent Design System will allow them to deliver engaging experiences that work across a wide range of devices with input diversity.

The source code to the app is available on Github here and developers can download the app from the Store here.

Microsoft Launcher review: A beautiful Android experience

Microsoft-Launcher-with-Surface

After Microsoft gives up on Windows 10 Mobile, Microsoft Launcher is the upgraded version of the Microsoft Garage project Arrow Launcher, and we covered the key changes that came with that upgrade last week. It's free and can be picked up from the Google Play Store.

After some heavy usage over the last few days, we're breaking down what works, what doesn't, and where Microsoft should take their launcher from here.

As Microsoft Launcher gains more publicity, there have been some rumblings about how it doesn't look like Windows 10 Mobile. It's important to point out that it doesn't seem to be the goal of Microsoft to make Android look exactly like Windows 10 Mobile. For example, you won't find Live Tiles anywhere in the launcher. If you're looking for as close to a facsimile of Windows 10 Mobile on Android as possible, there are other options, such as Squarehome 2.

But this isn't a bad thing. Microsoft isn't trying to turn Android into Windows 10 Mobile, they are trying to integrate Microsoft services into the Android experience while also adding some design elements that will be familiar to Windows users. And in that respect, Microsoft Launcher is phenomenal.

For example, there's also an option for a transparent theme. With all the transparent design elements coming in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, having a glass effect throughout all of your devices helps them feel more like siblings. Microsoft Launcher's transparency is found on every page in the launcher, including your newsfeed, calendar, people section, and more.

Microsoft-Launcher-Microsoft-Services

Arrow Launcher already had features such as Wunderlist and Outlook calendar integration. Microsoft Launcher takes that idea further by bringing "Continue on PC" to Android. This lets you start doing things on your phone and easily jump to another device. This will be familiar to anyone who has taken advantage of Project Rome. It's a nice addition to Android and will hopefully get better over time. You can take a document you're working on and push it over to your PC. It also works with links, even if you're browsing on Chrome on your phone and have Edge as the default browser on PC. It works fairly well, though it can take a couple seconds to open on your PC.

Microsoft gives up on Windows 10 Mobile

Belfiore_window10_mobile

The company's Windows 10 chief has tweeted that developing new features and hardware for the Mobile version of the OS was no longer a "focus".

Joe Belfiore added that he had also switched to Android himself.

Windows 10 Mobile tried to attract users by letting them run the same "universal apps" on both their PCs and handsets, but the concept failed to catch on.

The OS accounted for just 0.03% of the global market - based on smartphone shipments - between April and June, according to research company IDC.

The market intelligence provider said the news had been a long time coming.

"There wasn't a wide range of devices running Windows 10 Mobile, so it wasn't attractive to retailers or operators," said IDC's Francisco Jeronimo.

"And from a consumer perspective, the operating system didn't provide as good an experience as Android or iOS."

Mr Belfiore began a series of tweets on Sunday by discussing the recent launch of a test version of Microsoft's Edge web browser for Android and iOS - the latest in a series of releases of its core software for rival mobile platforms.

He then went on to respond to questions about whether there was any point sticking with Windows 10 Mobile.

He said that while Microsoft would support the "many companies" that had adopted the platform, he had switched to Android for the diversity of its apps and hardware.

"Of course we'll continue to support the platform... bug fixes, security updates, et cetera," he said.

"But building new features or hardware is not the focus."

Hey Cortana, open Alexa: Microsoft and Amazon’s first-of-its-kind collaboration

Alexa_opens_Cortana

I talk to Cortana every day — at home, work and on-the-go — to get information about my day, to set reminders so I don’t forget things, and to answer my questions. But I don’t just use one digital assistant. I also frequently talk to Alexa to listen to audio books or to add things to my shopping list. Because people use and interact with all kinds of products, we’re very excited to announce a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Amazon between Cortana and Alexa that will offer more choice, value and access to both intelligent personal assistants.

Available later this year, this collaboration will allow you to access Alexa via Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, followed by Android and iOS in the future. Conversely, you’ll be able to access Cortana on Alexa-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo, Echo Dot and Echo Show.

As our CEO, Satya Nadella, said in today’s Amazon press release, the collaboration between Microsoft and Amazon reflects our belief that when people and technology work together, everybody wins:

“Ensuring Cortana is available for our customers everywhere and across any device is a key priority for us. Bringing Cortana’s knowledge, Office 365 integration, commitments and reminders to Alexa is a great step toward that goal.”

By bringing Cortana to Alexa and Alexa to Cortana, I’m excited that we’re adding more value and choice for consumers and developers alike. Cortana users will be able to have Alexa shop on Amazon.com and manage their Amazon orders and access many of Alexa’s third-party skills by asking Cortana to open Alexa, just as Alexa users will have access to Cortana’s world knowledge and helpful productivity features such as calendar management, day at a glance and location-based reminders simply by asking Alexa to open Cortana.

Bill Gates made these 15 predictions in 1999 — and it's scary how accurate he was

Bill-Gates

After reading ’Business @ the Speed of Thought’, my respect for Bill Gates has increased exponentially. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t a fan of his before. I’ve always been impressed by the strategies that Microsoft carried out in its early days, but that doesn’t come close to how impressed I am now. In this book, published in 1999, Gates outlined how information systems, the Internet, and technology in general would change the way that businesses function. Along the way, he made some incredibly accurate predictions, most of which have since become huge industries: smart phones, smart homes, social networks, and an array of other uses for the Internet-a few of which have yet to be developed.

Gates presents a few key elements for a good information system. While we have to keep in mind that the book was written in the late 90’s, many of these questions are still hardly answered by today’s technology, and present opportunities for new businesses.

Predictions

  1. Automated price comparison services will be developed, allowing people to see prices across multiple websites, making it effortless to find the cheapest product for all industries.
  2. People will carry around small devices that allow them to constantly stay in touch and do electronic business from wherever they are. They will be able to check the news, see flights they have booked, get information from financial markets, and do just about anything else on these devices.
  3. People will pay their bills, take care of their finances, and communicate with their doctors over the Internet.
  4. “Personal companions” will be developed. They will connect and sync all your devices in a smart way, whether they are at home or in the office, and allow them to exchange data. The device will check your email or notifications, and present the information that you need. When you go to the store, you can tell it what recipes you want to prepare, and it will generate a list of ingredients that you need to pick up. It will inform all the devices that you use of your purchases and schedule, allowing them to automatically adjust to what you’re doing.
  5. Constant video feeds of your house will become common, which inform you when somebody visits while you are not home.
  6. Private websites for your friends and family will be common, allowing you to chat and plan for events.
  7. Software that knows when you’ve booked a trip and uses that information to suggest activities at the local destination. It suggests activities, discounts, offers, and cheaper prices for all the things that you want to take part in.
  8. While watching a sports competition on television, services will allow you to discuss what is going on live, and enter contest where you vote on who you think will win.
  9. Devices will have smart advertising. They will know your purchasing trends, and will display advertisements that are tailored toward your preferences.
  10. Television broadcast will include links to relevant websites and content that complement what you are watching.
  11. Residents of cities and countries will be able to have Internet-based discussions concerning issues that affect them, such as local politics, city planning or safety.
  12. Online communities will not be influenced by your location, but rather, your interest.
  13. Project managers looking to put a team together will be able to go online, describe the project, and receive recommendations for available people who would fit their requirements.
  14. Similarly, people looking for work will be able to find employment opportunities online by declaring their interest, needs, and specialized skills.
  15. Companies will be able to bid on jobs, whether they are looking for a construction project, a movie production, or an advertising campaign. This will be efficient for both big companies that want to outsource work that they don’t usually face, businesses looking for new clients, and corporations that don’t have a go-to provider for the said service.

The original post is here.

Microsoft says iOS and Android support doesn’t mean Windows Phone is dead

Is-Windows-Phone-dead

In an interview with Business Insider, Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore spoke briefly about Microsoft’s recent announcements made at Build such as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update but also took the time to comfort those worried about the small presence of Windows phones at the event and Microsoft’s growing focus on iOS and Android devices.

“We’re going to continue to support Windows phone,” Belfiore said before adding that, “Windows is a platform that drives the experience on a whole range of devices. We live in a highly diverse world.”

With the significantly higher number of users on iOS and Android compared to Windows 10 Mobile, it’s understandable that Microsoft would want to offer their services and products to those using those ecosystems. This often frustrates Windows phone users though as it can appear that Microsoft favors offering support for other companies’ mobile devices over their own. And for the most part, recently anyway, this has been fairly true.

It’s been a while since Microsoft released their own Windows phone device (they’ve been relying on other companies to manufacture phones) but the Windows 10 Mobile operating system continues to get updates (though admittedly not as big as the Windows 10 updates) as do many Windows phone apps. There’s also a growing number of rumors and statements that suggest that Microsoft could be planning a “Surface Phone” which could radically redefine what a smartphone looks like and is used for.

WebAssembly is now ready for browsers to use

WebAssembly, a portable code format that could make for a faster web, has moved to minimum viable product (MVP) status, with browser vendors now able to switch WebAssembly on by default.

webassembly-screenshot

A recent bulletin from Mozilla Senior Staff Engineer Luke Wagner said representatives of the four major browsers agreed that the design and binary format were complete to the extent that no further design work was doable without implementation experience and significant usage. Browsers represented included Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, and WebKit, which is Apple's browser engine for Safari, according to the bulletin posted on a World Wide Web Consortium mailing list.

WebAssembly is a highly touted effort that not only is set to run web apps in the browser at near-native speeds but also allow for other languages to be used for browser programming beyond JavaScript. The effort has drawn praise from JavaScript founder Brendan Eich, who recently expressed concern that the four browser vendors might end up disunifying over the project, thus jeopardizing it. But Wagner said proponents for all four browsers have been active and participate in the WebAssembly Community Group.

For developers, WebAssembly provides fast load times for large codes and predictable, near-native runtime performance, Wagner said. "This enables developers to bring functionality and experiences to the web that might have otherwise been gated on JavaScript." Since WebAssembly can be used as a library from JavaScript, JavaScript developers can utilize WebAssembly's performance through libraries and frameworks.

WebAssembly could possibly use other languages, such as Python, in the browser, depends on the language's ecosystem, Wagner said. "One requirement for supporting a language is that WebAssembly provides the necessary features to run that language efficiently. For many languages, this requires adding garbage collection [memory management] features to WebAssembly, which is on the road map but will take at least a year or two." The other challenge of supporting a language is porting over language libraries and frameworks to run in a browser and use web APIs.

This is iPhone 8

iPhone8-Introduction

The hardware that allows the iPhone 8's rumored facial recognition capability could consist of a "revolutionary" new camera system for its front-facing camera.

iPhone8-Camera

iPhone8-OLED

iPhone8-Security

iPhone8-Colors

The report follows related rumors of Apple augmenting or ditching its Touch ID fingerprint scanner in favor of iris or facial recognition technology, fueled by its acquisition of Israeli facial recognition startup RealFace. Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 -- yep, that Galaxy Note 7 -- was among the first phones to come equipped with an iris scanner.

99.6 percent of new smartphones run Android or iOS

google-pixel-phone-shootout

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner are out, and they paint an extremely familiar picture. Between them, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. This duopoly has been the norm for a while now (in the second quarter of 2015 this figure was 96.8 percent), but it’s always impressive — and slightly terrifying — to see how Google and Apple continue to wring the last decimal point drops of market share from global smartphone users.

Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share.

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