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.

Microsoft says Windows 10 Anniversary Update is coming August 2nd

microsoft-build-2016Windows 10's first big update will arrive August 2nd — or, at least, that's what it sounds like. Microsoft published a blog post earlier today that included only a headline, "Microsoft announces Windows 10 Anniversary Update available Aug. 2," and then pulled the story moments later. It's possible that Microsoft just got the date wrong, but, more likely than not, Microsoft seems to have just clicked the publish button earlier than it meant to. Presumably, a formal announcement will come soon.

Microsoft announced Windows 10's Anniversary Update back in March, during its Build conference. The update puts a major focus on Windows Ink, building out its feature set to make stylus use far more powerful. It also brings extensions to Edge, as well as smaller improvements to Hello and Cortana, along with some minor interface tweaks.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update Targeted For Late July Release

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It may seem obvious but Microsoft is planning to release the Anniversary update for Windows 10 in late July. While the company has not explicitly said when it will be released, insiders at the company have acknowledged that the current road map is for the update to be finalized in mid-July.

As with all timelines, the release date could change, especially since we are a few months out and road maps are used for guidance and are not always hard dates. Considering that Windows 10 was released on July 29th, it would make sense that the company would release the Anniversary update on or around that date; the 29th is a Friday.

The last couple of Windows 10 builds have been packed with new features that should make most end-users happy. Everything from a new dark theme, although it’s far from perfect, to new Cortana features, enhancements to the Action Center, an updated Start menu and a lot more are coming in this release.

At this time, Microsoft still has a few more tricks up its sleeve, although they are small features, that will be coming with the update when it arrives. But, as we get closer to the release date, expect new feature introduction to slow down and a focus on bug bashing to spin up.

Earlier this week, Microsoft released a new build of Windows 10, 14332, that you can view here.

To make crashes 'friendlier', Microsoft adds QR codes to Windows 10 BSOD

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Windows users will no longer be forced to manually Google error messages to figure out why their computer crashed, as development builds of Windows 10 now include a QR code on the Blue Screen of Death.

The QR codes appeared in build 14316 of the Windows 10 Insider Preview. Though it currently points to a generic help page, the QR code will presumably eventually direct users to specific Windows support articles.

Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death was long a spartan, utilitarian affair. It displayed a generic message and an often unintelligible crash code in a monospaced font.

That changed with Windows 8, when the BSOD was redesigned to add a sad emoticon and more nuanced error instructions.

Apple's modern equivalent — the OS X kernel panic screen — has always been somewhat more refined, though less helpful. Until OS X 10.8, rather than providing a reason, the kernel panic screen simply instructed users to perform a hard reset of their system; more recent revisions perform the reboot automatically.

Microsoft is bringing the Bash shell to Windows 10

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Here is an announcement from Microsoft Build you probably didn’t see coming: Microsoft today announced that it is bringing the GNU project’s Bash shell to Windows. Bash (Bourne Again SHell) has long been a standard on OS X and many Linux distribution systems, while the default terminal for developers on Windows is Microsoft’s own PowerShell.

More importantly than bringing the shell over to Windows, developers will now be able to write their .sh Bash scripts on Windows, as well (or use Emacs to edit their code). Microsoft noted that this will work through a new Linux subsystem in Windows 10 that Microsoft worked on with Canonical.

“The native availability of a full Ubuntu environment on Windows, without virtualization or emulation, is a milestone that defies convention and a gateway to fascinatingly unfamiliar territory,” Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth said in a statement today. “In our journey to bring free software to the widest possible audience, this is not a moment we could have predicted. Nevertheless we are delighted to stand behind Ubuntu for Windows, committed to addressing the needs of Windows developers exploring Linux in this amazing new way, and excited at the possibilities heralded by this unexpected turn of events.”

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The idea here is clearly to position Windows as a better operating system for developers who want to target other platforms besides Microsoft’s own. Under its new CEO Satya Nadella, the company has quickly embraced the idea that it wants to target all developers and platforms — not just its own. While seeing Microsoft doing anything even remotely associated with a rival operating system like Linux was unthinkable only a few years ago, the company now offers support for Linux on Azure, has open sourced numerous of its technologies and even plans to bring its flagship database product SQL Server to Linux in the near future.

Bash will arrive as part of the Windows 10 Anniversary Update this summer, but it’ll be available to Windows Insiders before that. And looking ahead, Microsoft says it may bring other shells to Windows over time, too.

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Microsoft now plans March Windows 10 Mobile rollout

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February has come and gone without the highly anticipated Windows 10 Mobile upgrade for legacy Lumia handsets. In an email to partners, seen by VentureBeat, Microsoft is now targeting a release this month, to occur after the regular monthly service updates for the two Windows 10-powered handsets already on the market, the Lumia 950 and 950 XL.

Unlike the previous schedule this one separates the upgrade from the service update. In other words, whereas the February rollout would have seen the update bundled into the upgrade, in March they are expected to be two distinct processes.

The rollout is said to begin passively, from Microsoft’s perspective, in that users will need to initiate it manually from their handsets. Only afterwards, on an unspecified timetable, will the company begin actively pushing the new firmware to eligible devices.

Microsoft had initially intended to upgrade in-market Lumias this past December, but the self-imposed deadline came and went. The February target was only messaged internally, so there has technically been just a single — albeit months-long — delay.

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