Microsoft gives up on Windows 10 Mobile

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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."

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

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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.

Microsoft's new adaptive shell will help Windows 10 scale across PC, Mobile, and Xbox

The Windows Shell is essentially the Windows environment we all know and love. In layman's terms, it gives us access to system elements and objects necessary for running applications, and houses features such as the Taskbar, Start Menu, Desktop and more. Currently, the Windows Shell is different depending on the version of Windows 10 you're using. For example, Mobile is using a different Windows Shell than desktop; but Microsoft is working to change and streamline that.

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Microsoft is building an "adaptive shell" into Windows 10 that'll work across PCs and tablets, phones, HoloLens, and even Xbox. As it currently stands, the Windows Shell isn't a true universal element of Windows, unlike the OneCore subsystem and Universal Windows Apps. PCs and tablets share the same shell thanks to Continuum, but Mobile, HoloLens and Xbox have their own individual shells that are updated and maintained separately.

Over the next few Windows 10 releases however, Microsoft will be bringing each of these device categories under one Windows Shell, making for a true universal Windows 10 experience no matter what device you're using. Internally referred to as "Composable Shell" or "CSHELL", this new Windows Shell will be able to scale in real-time between all types of devices, similarly to how Continuum currently works between desktop mode and tablet mode, only this time it'll scale across Xbox and Mobile as well.

For our more techy readers, the Composable Shell is essentially a shell modularized into sub-components. The system can transition between each component if it is required, making for a much more flexible experience on devices like 2-in-1's or something that has multiple form-factors.

Microsoft is working on a new design language for Windows 10 codenamed Project NEON

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Microsoft has made several adjustments to its design language over the last few years, starting with Windows 8 and evolving into what we now know as "Microsoft Design Language 2" or MDL2 in Windows 10. With MDL2 being the current design language used throughout Windows 10, Microsoft has plans to begin using a much more streamlined design language with Redstone 3, codenamed Project NEON.

A Metro 2.0?

Cassim Ketfi at Numerama.com confirms our information and has heard Project NEON called "basically Metro 2". That designation refers to the first Metro design language (née Modern) that harkens to Windows Media Center up through Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8.

Metro was the defining look of the Windows Phone OS with strict principles and guidelines. It also kicked off the design movement of flat, chrome-less design focused on simplicity that even iOS and Android now mimic.

Per our sources, Project NEON has been in the works for over a year internally at Microsoft. It builds upon the design language introduced with Windows 10, with its simple and clean interfaces, but adds some much-needed flair to the UI that the current design language just lacks.

Details are still scarce, but we hear some of the new designs in the plans include adding more animations and transitions, with the overall goal of making the UI very fluid and "beautiful" compared to the current, almost static UI that is MDL2. One source familiar with Microsoft's plans described NEON as "Very fluid, lots of motion and nice transitions."

Other things we've heard include app-elements being able to "escape" the borders of a window making for a much more unique experience.

Some more information about NEON reveals that it serves as a bridge between holographic and augmented reality (AR) and the desktop environment. It's a "UI that transports across devices" with a UX that maps to the physical world. It uses textures, 3D models, lighting and more.

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Timeline

Internal plans appear to suggest that the bulk of this new design language will start showing up with Redstone 3 in the early Fall of 2017, but Insiders will likely start seeing these new changes a lot sooner, as Insiders are supposed to start receiving RS3 builds in April-May. There is also a reasonable chance we may see some NEON bits begin to appear in Redstone 2 in early 2017.

Microsoft will continue working on Project NEON throughout Redstone 3's development cycle and leading into Redstone 4 in 2018, where 3rd-party developers will also be able to take advantage of the new design language.

Windows switching to differential patching in the Creators Update

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Major Windows 10 updates, including this summer's Anniversary Update and next year's Creators Update, are distributed as essentially full operating system installs. The downloads are around 4GB, and installing them performs a complete in-place upgrade to Windows.

That is set to change as Microsoft rolls out what it calls its Unified Update Platform (UUP). Major upgrades will be shipped as differential updates, where only the differences between the currently installed version and the newly installed version need to be downloaded. The company estimates that this will result in major version upgrades being around 35 percent smaller.

UUP should also make checking for updates faster, as more of the computational workload to figure out the patches that a system needs will be handled in the cloud rather than on the client.

In making this change, some differences between the Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC update process are being eliminated. Currently the desktop platform can generally upgrade from any patch level to the latest version in one shot; on mobile, sometimes multiple updates are required, with two separate download, install, and reboot processes.

End-users on stable builds of Windows won't see this change take effect until after the Creators Update; the client-side infrastructure necessary to support these differential updates will be a part of that release. Insiders, however, who regularly perform major version updates (as every new Insider build is installed as an in-place upgrade) will begin seeing the improvements much sooner. Mobile releases will enable UUP updating starting with today's build 14959, with the technology coming to PC builds a little later in the year, followed by Windows IoT and Windows for HoloLens. Excluded from this is Xbox, which will retain its own update process.

Nadella: 'Windows is the most open platform there is'

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When Satya Nadella became CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he asked what the company's place in the world is, and how it could make the biggest contribution.

What he kept coming back to was that the company builds things that empower people to build their own things. When he looked at Microsoft, he saw software that could be a force to "democratize and empower people."

Nadella articulated what that vision means for the future of Azure, Windows, Office, Cortana, Linkedin, and more during his keynote address - on a telepresence link - at Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2016 in Orlando on Tuesday.

In conversation with Gartner analysts that featured lots of Nadella's usual well-crafted, nuanced statements, he also boldly declared:

"Windows is the most open platform there is."

It came in the context of Nadella talking about Microsoft's mission to unite the three big constituencies in the technology world.

"That's the approach we've always taken," said Nadella, "bringing users, IT, and developers together... When you bring them together, that's where the magic happens."

Microsoft to launch new Surface PC at October 26th event

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Microsoft is holding a special Windows 10 and Surface event in New York City later this month. The software giant has started emailing out invites to an event on October 26th, and Microsoft is expected to make some Xbox-related announcements at the event, alongside new Surface hardware and some details on the company's next Windows 10 software update. Microsoft's event isn't expected to be as large, or involve as much hardware.

Surface-branded keyboards and a mouse have started leaking ahead of Microsoft's event, and the company is widely expected to be unveiling at least one new all-in-one desktop PC.

The main focus of the event will be the unveiling of Microsoft's vision for the future of Windows 10, and the company's desktop PC hardware to support it. Microsoft is expected to detail new features in Windows 10 that it plans to ship in two major software updates next year, and discuss how some of those features feed into its Xbox gaming strategy across both platforms. Microsoft's event will be live in New York City on October 26th, so stay tuned for our live blog.

Introducing the UWP Community Toolkit

Recently, Microsoft released the Windows Anniversary Update and a new Windows Software Developer Kit (SDK) for Windows 10 containing tools, app templates, platform controls, Windows Runtime APIs, emulators and much more, to help create innovative and compelling Universal Windows apps.

Today, we are introducing the open-source UWP Community Toolkit, a new project that enables the developer community to collaborate and contribute new capabilities on top of the SDK.

We designed the toolkit with these goals in mind:

  1. Simplified app development: The toolkit includes new capabilities (helper functions, custom controls and app services) that simplify or demonstrate common developer tasks. Where possible, our goal is to allow app developers to get started with just one line of code.
  2. Open-Source: The toolkit (source code, issues and roadmap) will be developed as an open-source project. We welcome contributions from the .NET developer community.
  3. Alignment with SDK: The feedback from the community on this project will be reflected in future versions of the Windows SDK for Windows 10.

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All Windows 10 PCs will get Windows Holographic access next year

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Windows 10 users will be able to dive into mixed reality starting next year, with an update planned that can let any “mainstream” Windows 10 PC run the Windows Holographic shell the company first revealed in January 2015.

The update will allow users to multi-task in mixed reality environments, which combine traditional 2D Windows 10 apps with immersive, 3D graphical environments. These will be enabled via a range of “6 degrees of freedom devices,” input devices that add positional tracking to other more traditional forms of input, like clicking and pointing.

The Windows team is trying to make this more broadly available, too, thanks to support for a range of Windows 10 PCs that don’t necessarily need the specs required to run full-scale VR today. As an example, Microsoft presented a video of Windows 10 Holographic running at 90 FPS on an Intel NUC, a tiny desktop PC that’s not super expensive and included integrated Intel graphics.

While it’s still unlikely that we’ll all be doing our average desk workflow of spreadsheets and slide presentation in mixed reality any time soon, it’s good to see Microsoft set a timeline for public availability of a feature which, at launch, seems like it had the potential to become vaporware rather than a shipping product.

Intel and Microsoft are also building a specification for mixed reality PCs, as well as head-mounted displays that let users experience the mixed reality operating environment. The public release of the spec is planned for an upcoming Windows hardware develop conference in Shenzhen this December.

Windows 10's Anniversary Update is now available

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Microsoft's Windows 10 Anniversary Update is here and ready to download. The software maker first started testing its Anniversary Update back in December, and now all Windows 10 users get to experience the new features and improvements free of charge. Chief among them is a new Windows Ink feature. Microsoft has supported inking in Windows for years, but Windows Ink is a dedicated hub designed for devices like the Surface Pro 4, and other 2-in-1s with styluses. Windows Ink will work with your fingers, for doodling and inking on screenshots, but it will obviously work better with a dedicated stylus.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update also includes a number of UI improvements to the Start menu, notification center, taskbar, and overall dark theme. Microsoft is also tweaking Cortana to allow the digital assistant to work on the lock screen and answer queries. If you're a fan of Microsoft's Edge browser, it's also getting extension support today. Extensions like LastPass, 1Password, AdBlock, and EverNote are all available, and more should arrive in the Windows Store in the coming months. Windows 10 Anniversary Update is available from Windows Update immediately, an ISOs are also available (or an easy clean install tool) if you're interested in clean installing the update to your system.

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