On Wednesday at the Build developer conference in San Francisco, Microsoft outlined new opportunities for developers and showed how businesses can benefit from new capabilities in the Windows 8.1 update and Windows Phone 8.1.
The company also showed how Cortana, a new digital assistant, is powered by Bing. Finally, updates to Internet Explorer 11 and a new and improved Skype for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 were also unveiled.
Microsoft outlines new opportunities for developers
Microsoft announced updates that put developers first with a focus on interoperability across devices and the cloud, while granting access to Cortana.
Microsoft will embrace more kinds of code and share more of its work with the developer community, while removing roadblocks, according to Kevin Gallo, Windows Phone director of program management. As part of this effort, Visual Studio Update 2 RC includes Universal Projects, which allows developers to create apps that tailor easily to experiences across multiple screens.
Microsoft is also making the API available for virtual assistant Cortana, and will expose new enhancements to the Speech API that allows developers to directly utilize more types of natural verbal exchanges in app creation.
Developers will be able to interact with tablets and Windows computers in new ways as well. With the release of Kinect for Windows v2 in June, developers can build Kinect apps for the Windows Store and publish or commercially deploy them later this summer.
What’s new for businesses in the Windows 8.1 update and Windows Phone 8.1
The Windows 8.1 Update and Windows Phone 8.1 deliver important capabilities designed for the businesses.
The Windows 8.1 Update, available Wednesday on MSDN and TechNet, via Windows Update on April 8, and for Volume Licensing customers later this month, includes better Internet Explorer compatibility, user interface improvements and deeper control over your organization’s policy settings with extended Mobile Device Management.
The update also enables Microsoft’s hardware partners to deliver low-cost machines that require only 1 GB of RAM and 16GB HDD. Hardware partners will be able to access free Windows Phone licenses and free Windows licenses for devices smaller than 9 inches to further drive innovation and reduce prices.
Windows Phone 8.1 includes a built-in Mobile Device Management client that allows IT organizations to manage devices within their management system of choice, such as Windows Intune, MobileIron and AirWatch.
To learn more, head over to the Windows for your Business blog.
Cortana is powered by Bing
Bing technology powers Cortana, your new personal assistant in Windows Phone 8.1, and while the results you’ll get will reflect Bing’s extensive knowledge, there’s also more to Cortana than reciting facts and figures.
The technology behind Cortana, Bing.com and other Microsoft products is a platform that combines Bing’s massive investments toward indexing the real world with speech recognition, language and entity understanding, and stream processing that, taken together, make Bing more personal, helpful and intelligent, writes Mike Calcagno, Bing partner development manager.
To learn more about the technology behind Cortana, head on over to the Bing blog.
Introducing Skype, new and improved, for Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1
Joining the long list of exciting announcements Wednesday was a sneak peek into the upcoming Skype app for Windows Phone 8.1 and Skype updates to Windows 8.1.
The emphasis for the app is on having the best Skype experience on the go, says Lara Kingwell, a product marketing manager at Skype. You’ll be able to easily upgrade your audio phone calls to Skype video calls, or use Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1’s virtual assistant, to quickly chat with friends and family via Skype.
When you buy a Windows Phone 8.1 device or update your existing Windows Phone, Skype will be pre-installed with selected carriers and ready to use, giving you an easy, affordable way to connect with the people who matter most.
Check out the Skype Big Blog for more on Skype for the new Windows Phone and Windows 8.1.
Internet Explorer 11 gets updated
An updated version of Internet Explorer 11 for Windows 8.1, Windows 7 and Windows Phone 8.1 was also introduced at Build.
The Windows 8.1 Update will be available for download on MSDN and TechNet, with automatic updates beginning April 8 for both Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 customers.
IE11 also adapts to your browsing experience by detecting your Windows device and input type – whether it’s an 8-inch touch tablet in portrait mode or a 24-inch desktop with mouse and keyboard.
With IE11 for Windows Phone and Live Sites, you can now pin your favorite sites directly to your Start Screen for information from the Web at a glance. Reading Mode helps you optimize the view of articles as if you were reading a digital book on your phone. Voice Commands get you quickly to your favorite websites by speaking naturally to your device.
To learn more about the IE 11 update, head over to the IE Blog.
Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog