A run down of new things from Microsoft for Windows and Windows Phone at the Build 2014 conference.
UPDATE: Immediately after the posting of this blog Microsoft announced that Windows is now free to manufactures of phones and tablets that are 9 inches or smaller.
Microsoft Build 2014: Windows Phone 8.1
The official announcement to kick-start Build 2014 was the new features in Windows Phone 8.1. The most important new feature is Cortana – Microsoft’s new personal assistant. This is the same name as the artificial intelligence from the video game Halo. Cortana replaces the search feature in the phone. Cortana also acts like a true assistant. Microsoft talked to some of the best assistants and found that most organized things with a notebook.
Cortana also lets users assign contacts into an “Inner Circle”. You can put your phone into a quiet time section that will disable certain notifications. You can then define custom rules that allow your Inner Circle to override these settings.
Cortana is intelligent enough to alert you to conflicts with thing in your calendar.
Cortana pulls data feeds from various sources. The only highlighted source was Yelp which displays review data directly with results.
Cortana is intelligent enough to display more data that the user may want to know. For example, asking Cortana how many calories were in a banana will also give you the total fat, protein, and carbs.
Cortana is intelligent to handle reminders like “Remind me to cook dinner for my kids when I get home”. This shows that Cortana can handle reminders based on location, not just a time. It can also handle reminders like “Remind me to ask my sister about her puppy the next time I am with her”.
Business users can now quickly connect to Enterprise VPN. They can also send secured, encrypted emails using S/MIME.
Businesses can now disable apps for specific users. They can also remotely restore or delete users from a workplace. If a business removes a user from the workplace they will see all of their workplace related tiles removed from the start screen.
Other new features include:
- The new Action Center screen which lets you quickly make changes to the phone and displays notifications.
- New Lockscreen APIs that let allow developers to add apps to the lock screen.
- The ability to set a wallpaper that goes behind your tile icons. Previously if an icon on a tile did not take up the entire tile it would need a background color.
- The calendar app now lets you see the next day with a swipe. It’s also intelligent enough to detect if a user does not have many events and will automatically default to a weekly (or monthly) view. Additionally apps can now automatically add events to your calendar.
- Wi-Fi Sense lets you share your Wi-Fi connections with your friends without telling them your Wi-Fi password.
- Phone calls display reminders you may have sent for a person. Additionally you can upgrade a phone call to a video call with Skype.
- The new keyboard supports a feature they call workflow. It is basically just Swype for Windows Phone. This new feature allowed Windows Phone 8.1 to defeat the current world record holder for fastest typing in the Guiness book of world records.
- Full support for IE11, including the new reading mode.
- Settings like background colors, Wi-Fi, etc. are now shared with Windows 8.1 devices.
These new features will roll out to existing device owners in the next few months. New phones with 8.1 are coming out this month.
Build 2014: Windows 8.1 Update
Enterprise users running IE 11 can now easily toggle a site to run in legacy mode settings that re-enable settings like ActiveX features that are normally disabled.
Microsoft has greatly improved the experience for keyboard and mouse users. Accessing a Modern UI app from the desktop does not switch modes, but it does automatically hide the task bar until a moves their mouse to the bottom of the screen.
The Start Screen is now far easier to use with a mouse. Right clicking on a tile now displays a context menu with new information.
The Windows Store app is now pinned to your desktop taskbar. The Windows Store update now works better with a mouse.
This new Windows 8.1 update is available for free to Windows 8 and 8.1 users on April 8th. For those of you keeping track, this is the same day as the Windows XP end of life.
Build 2014: Developers
Microsoft has introduced a way of developing code called Universal Apps. Apple and Google make developers create apps specific for their platform. Microsoft now lets you create apps that use a common code base for desktop, mobile, and television (with Xbox). You use one view for everything, or create specific views for either platform.
What are your thoughts of Build 2014? Are you excited about the new things coming to Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1? Happy that it’s now easier to use Windows 8 with a desktop? Let us know.