A lot of attention lately has been given to Android and iOS, but let's not forget developments from Microsoft. Microsoft made some exciting announcements at Build 2014 that we should consider.
The Windows 8.1 update was given an imminent release date (April 8th) and Windows Phone 8.1 Dev Preview Program is just starting. There was a nice quote reflecting their intentions with Windows Phone 8.1, “We believe Windows Phone is the world's most personal smartphone”. Microsoft is bringing Windows Phone 8.1 to all Lumia devices running WP8 and the next generation of Lumia devices were shown with ridiculously good cameras and a Snapdragon 400/800 chip inside (1.2/2.2 GHz).
Cortana is Microsoft’s version of Siri (with a husky voice), that is powered by Bing, and has been fully integrated into the phone experience. Windows Phone 8.1 also comes with an enterprise VPN and Internet Explorer 11. The desktop version of Internet Explorer now has an enterprise mode for improved compatibility (white listing of sites) and finally supports WebGL (3D).
The first announcements that was of keen interest to me was the new Universal Apps. These are based on the Windows runtime environment and are portable across the following: PCs; tablets and even Xbox. There is an update to Visual Studio 2013 that allows you to build such Universal Apps. A demo showed the same App running on both Xbox and Windows Phone; and there was also a demo showing the improvements in DirectX 12.
The second thing of interest for me was that ‘The Internet of Things’ got a lot of air time and Microsoft were very keen to talk about Intel and their new Quark chip. It's the smallest SoC the company has ever built, with processor cores one-fifth the size of Atom's, and is built upon an open architecture. Quark is positioned to put Intel in wearables and they even showed off a prototype smartwatch platform Intel constructed to help drive wearable development. Intel President Renee James pointed out that Quark's designed for use in integrated systems, so we'll be seeing Quark in healthcare too. The link for Microsoft was of course their Azure Cloud platform and the shock announcement that Windows will be available for free for Internet of Things-type devices - and indeed for phones and tablets with screens smaller than 9 inches.
The third thing that sparked my interest was from one of the questions in the Q&A, “What's the vision for Microsoft? The vision twenty some-odd years ago was ‘a computer on every desk’. But that's basically been achieved.” Microsoft's answer, “Mobile First, Cloud First, and a world based on concepts like machine learning.”
I like “Mobile First, Cloud First” as a concept because it stresses the important relationship between the two. Microsoft may not see the success they desire with Windows 8.1 (even when the start menu returns) but it is clear that they are still a force to be reckoned with, and Windows 9 will have all the necessary learning in place to succeed.
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.