Microsoft Aims To Turn Windows 10 PCs Into Echo Competitors

What Happened
Microsoft is planning to turn personal computers running Windows 10 into always-on smart speakers with a new HomeHub feature, as the company aims to find a better way to compete with devices like Amazon Echo. First previewed in December, HomeHub is designed to turn a PC into an always-listening device that users can activate Cortana via voice from the lockscreen to provide useful information. Microsoft is also planning to support smart home devices like Philips’ Hue lights, to enable Windows 10 PCs to act as a hub to control and manage smart home hardware.

What Brands Need To Do
Microsoft has been playing catch-up in the smart home device space, and this move should encourage some Windows users to use Cortana more frequently and become familiarized with the voice-activated smart home experience. The company has also worked with Harman Kardon to create an Invoke smart speaker that evokes Amazon Echo’s sleek cylinder design. As voice-based personal assistants like Alexa and Cortana continue to take over as the default interactive layer of smart home devices, brands wishing to tap into the marketing potential of the smart home devices will have to keep a close eye on this development.


Source: The Verge


What You Need To Know About Microsoft’s Build 2015 Event

Yesterday, Microsoft kicked off its annual developer conference, Build 2015. Several big announcements were made that could have a ripple effect on the overall tech ecosystem:

Windows 10 Aiming High
Throughout the event, Microsoft expressed high hopes for its upcoming operating system Windows 10. The company reportedly wants to see Windows 10 on 1 billion devices within two or three years of its official release. Aiming to unify the Windows applications on PC, Windows Phone, Xbox One, as well as new product categories such as Surface Hub and HoloLens, with a common core, Windows 10 could be the first true universal OS.

Open Arms To iOS And Android Apps
As if uniting all Microsoft platforms under Windows 10 isn’t enough, Microsoft also unveiled two new software development kits (SDKs) that will enable iOS and Android developers to leverage their existing codes into building Windows apps, in some cases even porting their apps and games directly to Windows universal apps. By simplifying the process, Microsoft is clearly hoping to lure more app developers into Windows OS to enrich its ecosystem.

HoloLens Growing Fast
As mentioned above, the Windows 10 universal apps will also run on its hologram-generating HoloLens headset that just debuted back in January. At the demo event, Microsoft showcased some applications in a living-room environment—including apps floating on the walls, a hologram dog, and even a holographic Start Menu—all running smoothly as if in a sci-fi movie. Moreover, Microsoft announced a partnership with Unity Technologies to fully explore HoloLens’s incredible potential in becoming a platform for immersive AR gaming.



Two Things That Windows 10 Learned From Apple

Microsoft has unveiled Windows 10, the next update of its operating system, oddly skipping Windows 9. Touted as the most comprehensive platform ever, Windows 10 aims to combine the familiarity of Windows 7 with the functionality of Windows 8. Looking closely, it seems Microsoft has learned a thing or two from Apple’s iOS.

Cross-platform continuum: While Apple added continuity feature in iOS 8 and OS Yosemite, helping users toggle between iDevices seamlessly with automatic sync-up, Windows 10 has taken it one step further, providing a unified user experience across platforms and devices ranging from the Internet of Things to servers.

Task View: Designed to help users navigate Windows’ multitasking feature (and looking suspiciously like the Expose Mode of Apple’s OS X), Task View allows users to set up different desktops for various usage scenarios and switch applications between them with ease.

Windows 10 is set to be released later next year.

Foursquare Integrated Into Cortana, Windows’ Siri

Following its pivoting re-launch last week, location service Foursquare is once again trying something new, as it has reported been integrated into Cortana, the Windows Phone’s answer to Siri. Its addition now enables window phones carrying Cortana to make customizable, local recommendations based on your location, and presumably, your account history. Such integration fits with the new “local discovery” position that Foursquare took up since its recent update, while also puts it in direct contest with Yelp, which Siri enlists for the same function.

Fitbit Becoming First Fitness Band To Support Windows Phone

As the current 3rd place in the race of mobile operating systems, Windows OS often gets neglected by app developers in favor of iOS and Android. But after getting a fashion make-over, Fitbit, the current forerunner in fitness tracking wearable, decides it’s time to cover all bases by releasing a mobile syncing app for Windows Phone 8.1., with all functions in tact. Sources cite the new Phone’s improved Bluetooth support as the reason that Fitbit moved in, but most likely, that’d be true if other fitness band manufacturers follow suit and create apps for Microsoft’s mobile platform as well. Obviously, just as advertiser always follows the audience, developers first go where the users are before branching out. And for now, Windows Mobile OS is usually not the starting point, but a mere afterthought. And Microsoft still has a lot to do to bridge that gap.

Bitcasa Launches “Infinite Storage” Cloud

If you’ve been holding off putting your digital life in the cloud, it might be time to go for it now. Bitcasa is shaking up the tech sphere with its public launch offering “infinite storage” to users across multiple devices and operating systems including iOS, Android, Mac, PC and web.  The update process is done automatically and every account is unlimited, so users never have to worry about forgetting to update or running out of space.  The pricing is competitive as well, with an introductory price of $69 a year – regular cost is $99 for a year.

Tablet Sales Rise as PC Market Stagnates

The world’s going mobile and the PC just can’t keep up.  Recent reports indicate that last quarter, the number of tablets shipped was more than half the number of PCs, compared to the 3rd quarter numbers from November, which showed almost 1 in 4 computers sold were tablets.  The trend does not show any sign of slowing down, and suggests more than a shift in computing hardware sales. Windows may now be losing its long-lived market dominance.  Of all PCs and Tablets shipped in the 4th quarter, a third of them run OSX, iOS, or Android.  The definition of “personal computing” is certainly changing. Will Microsoft be able to adapt in time?