Day one at Build brought a lot of anticipated announcements with a great mix of surprises and totally awesome demo’s.
The main overall push was the One Microsoft, in essence Microsoft has managed to bring all of their eco-systems into sync, the bottom line developer code can be used and reused across Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox One. While this may not seem a major thing to happen and to some a question of why it wasn't like this to start with, either way it means that the entry for corporate customers to deliver Windows and Windows Phone applications is now MUCH lower and I predict the support costs will be much lower as well.
So what were these announcements ?
Windows Phone 8.1
The wait for Windows Phone 8.1 is nearly over (next Wednesday for Developers, carrier dependant for mortals)
Lock Screen – the lock screen has been opened up by a new set of API’s, these API’s are not public yet, but some trusted developers will be producing a first round of non Microsoft lock screen experiences. I have always said that one of the great things Microsoft do, is to open up the platform to allow developers to hook in using rich and well tested API’s and the results of the Lock Screen efforts look well worth while.
Nokia – Nokia announced the 630 and 635 (dual sim and 4G) cost effective devices and the new flagship phone the 930 which I hope at some point soon I will be able to review.
APPX – Windows Phone now supports the AppX format.
Cortana – the singularly most anticipated feature on Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft’s new Personal Assistant. Microsoft have gone above and beyond with Cortana, the expected Natural Language recognition is supplemented with knowledge of past actions and a wealth of data from Bing. Microsoft are allowing developers to provide data to Cortana to provide a seamless cross application assistant. Jen Taylor who voiced Cortana in Halo will be the voice we will all come to know and love. As an interesting side note, Microsoft had planned follow its standard policy of cool code names leading to very dull release names, but after a public petition the code name was kept and i think it will help a lot.
Enterprise – with Cortana being the most anticipated feature, Enterprise grade features are the most needed on the platform and Microsoft have delivered on the Enterprise vision with an easy to manage, easy to engage secure model for Enterprise working. Enterprises now can choose a phone based on features and also allow BYOD, once enrolled into the Enterprise, IT managers can control which applications are used and how they are used with some fine grain control. Enterprises can deploy their own applications out without the need for store ingestion and if the device is removed from the Enterprise, all settings, applications and secure data are wiped from the unit. Other Enterprise features such as VPN round off the offering nicely.
Nice Bits – Windows Phone 8.1 now has the ability to project the screen either by Miracast (630 and 1520 only) or via USB to another display or projector to allow Demonstrations
Windows 8.1 Update 1 (8.1.1 to upset Microsoft Marketing people) is now available for developers and next week for Mortals and I urge you to get it on your machine as soon as possible. Many people were saying this is how Windows 8 should have been launched, I kind of see their point as it is very rounded but I don’t think Microsoft could have ended up directly with 8.1.1 without 8.
The changes are varied but the most noticeable is the support for right mouse click to get context menus, yes they are back. close X on windows store apps is understandable but i think a mistake
The ability to go straight to the desktop again I think is actually a retro step but ….
For enterprises a new Enterprise compatibility mode (IE8 mode to you and me) is now available to help enterprises move forward.
A final nod is that Store applications can now be pinned to the desktop task bar.
The announcements on Xbox One were for the future but were mainly around the final push to synchronise the Microsoft Platforms.
So this is the big one, updates to Visual Studio 2013 Update 2(RC) allows developers to jointly target Windows Phone and Windows in the same project, with amazing changes to the base controls one app can be built for both or have specific code/Xaml for each platform.
Now that Windows Phone supports AppX we are now able to deliver one application for Phone and Windows ( you might not want to in all cases )
So A great day and a great future for the Windows platform, now looking forward to Day 2 and the joys of Azure and Visual Studio.