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Microsoft looks to iOS and Android for its path forward in mobile


Between the release of Windows 10 Fall Creators Edition and the announcement of a new Surface Book, today’s Microsoft news was firmly focused on the desktop. But as the company works to build its future ecosystem, it’s keenly aware that no play in the space is complete without a mobile strategy. What shape that strategy will take, however, has been pretty unclear in the wake of Windows Phone’s long, drawn-out death.

Earlier this month, the company appeared to pronounce its proprietary mobile platform dead for good, as one time Windows Phone proselytizer Joe Belfiore threw in the towel on Twitter, declaring that “building new features/hardware aren’t the focus” after years of trying and trying again to make a vertically integrated, Windows-based smartphone business model work.

In a conversation with TechCrunch to mark the launch of today’s news, Microsoft Windows and Devices Group EVP Terry Myerson shed more light on Microsoft’s way forward in mobile.

“Our customers are using phones with their PCs,” the executive explained. “They can start on their phones and continue on their PCs or consoles. We are focusing on scenarios with the phones people are using today […] end to end scenarios to get stuff done to participate in the gaming experience.”

Myerson would not reveal more about the company’s strategy beyond that — “I don’t want to answer more specifically,” he said when pressed — but it’s easy to begin connecting the dots of Microsoft’s new mobile road map.

Along with this morning’s new Windows 10 release, the software giant is releasing versions of its Edge browser for both iOS and Android — a tacit acknowledgement that the company needs to embrace the leading mobile operating systems in order to maintain relevance on the desktop.

With the quiet admission that Microsoft-branded smartphones are taking a back seat (or maybe more accurately, being left on the side of the road), Edge is shaping up to be more than just a simple browser for the company.

Taking a cue from the Google’s playbook, the app is a lightweight, but robust cross platform offering that also brings things like a reading mode and Cortana to the table. The new Creators Update also introduced additional Microsoft Pen compatibility for the desktop version, letting users take notes on e-books.

Speaking of Cortana, the company’s assistant will also be a key part of its mobile play moving forward. Microsoft has already released versions of the AI assistant for iOS and Android, as it attempts to give it a life outside of the desktop. That’s also seeing Microsoft work with third parties a la Amazon with Alexa to figure out what kind of mileage it could have on voice-powered devices, as with Harman’s new Cortana-powered smart speaker, and HP’s and Intel’s plans to build Cortana-powered devices.

As Surface head Panos Panay told us, “As I move from device to device and room to room, you have to make sure that they’re all connected through Cortana. We believe in that.”

Both Edge and Cortana are key pieces of this puzzle, providing key connective tissue that Windows users will almost certainly want to take with them on the go. With Windows Phone out of the equation, that will almost certainly mean syncing up increasingly with iOS and Android to make sure that Windows itself continues to stay relevant.

It’s something of a Plan B for the company. Clearly Microsoft would have preferred more control over its own mobile ecosystem (and even acquired Nokia to establish a hardware foothold), but for now, it’s going to have to rely on Google and Apple’s offerings. Not ideal, but the company has been producing software for competing platforms from its earliest days. Survival in the age of mobile means re-embracing those roots.

What’s new in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update

Announced roughly this time last year, Creators Update was Microsoft’s attempt to capture the creative types who have long been considered a core part of the Mac ecosystem’s userbase. The update brought simple 3D content creation tools to Windows 10 and additional gaming functionality, among other things. The new Fall Creators Update, which is set to roll out to all users today, builds on top of many of those advances.

Like its predecessor, the new update brings more 3D content creation and helps ready Windows for Microsoft’s vision of a Mixed Reality future. There are also a number of other additions aimed at patching holes and addressing new input devices like the Surface Pen. Here’s a rundown of some of the biggies.

This is not a drill: Microsoft admits Windows Phone is dead for real


It’s time to say goodbye for real this time. Windows Phone’s death has been slow and painful, but, as CNET spotted, the head of Microsoft’s Windows division finally admitted you shouldn’t expect anything more when it comes to Windows Phone.

Microsoft doesn’t plan to let existing Windows Phone users down — there will be security updates. But don’t expect anything new. Joe Belfiore admitted that Microsoft isn’t working on any software or hardware update.

He even admitted that there’s no way to solve Microsoft’s app problems. Companies and indie developers simply don’t want to work on Windows Phone apps — most of them probably never cared in the first place.

So there you have it. Microsoft is giving up. This isn’t the first time Microsoft is realizing things are going awry. TechCrunch’s Natasha Lomas even wrote that Windows Phone 7 was doomed back in 2012.

It’s a shame because Windows Phone’s user interface was interesting. Most of the operating system featured a black background with a focus on text instead of icons. The home screen wasn’t just a boring grid of icons and widgets, it featured tiles with previews of your apps. Microsoft tried something different with Windows Phone, but it wasn’t enough.

Microsoft is going to focus on mobile in different ways. The company has been working on mobile apps and some of them are quite successful. For instance, Microsoft Edge is coming to Android and iOS. The company has dozens of apps on iOS and Android, including Microsoft Office, Outlook, Swiftkey, Skype and more.

In other words, Microsoft is copying Sega and developing for other platforms.

Microsoft’s giving power users a turbocharged version of Windows 10

Image: miles goscha/mashable

Microsoft’s Windows 10 runs on everything from powerful desktop gaming PCs to laptops to the Raspberry Pi. And later this fall there’s going to be a new edition with better support for power users running server-grade PCs.

The new OS, which comes alongside the Fall Creators Update, is simply called “Windows 10 Pro for Workstations” and according to Microsoft is designed to “meet the needs of our advanced users deploying their Workstation PCs in demanding and mission-critical scenarios.”

There are four key areas where Windows 10 Pro has been made better for professionals using beefy workstation PCs.

First, it comes with ReFS (Resilient file system) to protect your data from corruption, which is especially important when you’re handling large storage volumes on a server. ReFS can detect when data’s screwed up on a mirrored hard drive and then use another non-corrupt backup to automatically fix the bad one, ensuring your data’s always undamaged.

Second, the special version has “persistent memory” using non-volatile memory modules (NVDIMM-N) so you can read and write files lightning-quick. Your files remain stored in the RAM even when you turn your workstation off so you can resume your work quicker than before.

The four pillars where Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is better than regular Windows 10 Pro.

The four pillars where Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is better than regular Windows 10 Pro.

Image: microsoft

Third, Microsoft says it’s added faster file sharing using a feature called SMB Direct. Using network adapters with Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) support, users can transfer large amounts of data quickly without using much CPU processing power. This means the CPU can be freed for other tasks.

And lastly, the new update works with Intel’s and AMD’s server-grade hardware. It supports workstations using Intel Xeon and AMD Opteron processors that can be configured with up to four CPUs and up to 6TB of memory. Previously, workstations only supported up to two CPUs and 2TB of memory.

Windows 10 Pro for Workstations is a solid update to look forward to if you’re a professional with a workstation or manage servers for a living. For us normals, though, it’s nothing we need to bother with. The Fall Creators Update will bring lots of new consumer-friendly features like Pick Up Where You Left Off, which lets you start a task on a Windows PC and then resume on your iOS or Android phone.

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It looks like the much-hyped Windows Whiteboard app has leaked

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No one is immune to leaks in the tech world and today it’s Microsoft’s turn as a version of its anticipated Whiteboard app looks like its leaked on the web. 

The video above from WindowsBlogItalia — a, well, Italian Windows blog — which purports to show the app in use, free writing, image insertion, shapes and all. 

As flagged by The Verge, the leaked version seems to be an “Education Preview” of the software, and seems to be as cool as we expected it to be. One note, though: One of the coolest parts of the software — the collaborative tool that lets users simultaneously draw and edit the same project — isn’t available in the leak. 

Our own Lance Ulanoff got to see the software up close at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington office back in May. 

The tool’s builders included a feature called “live ink,” wherein collaborators’ ink strokes are visible as they’re made, and each collaborator is identified thanks to an icon, called “local ink identity.” 

The system also includes shape recognition. Draw a circle and it will turn into a cleaner and more manipulable one.

The app is also a powerful demonstration for Microsoft’s new, impressive Surface Pen. 

The Whiteboard app is currently “available in private previews in Surface Hub” and Microsoft has only added they plan to roll it out to more users later in 2017.

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