SAN FRANCISCO – Microsoft moved closer toward unifying its platform, making it easier for developers to write across Windows PCs, tablets and phones, and introduced its version of Siri at Day 1 today of Build, the company’s annual conference for independent, third-party developers.
Among today’s highlights:
- The company introduced “universal Windows apps,” making it easier for developers to write once and have their apps run across different Windows devices including Windows PCs, tablets, and Windows Phone (and Xbox sometime in the future). Specifically, developers can use “approximately 90 percent of the same code, a single packaging system, and a common user interface to target apps for phones, tablets and PCs,” according to Microsoft.
- Microsoft is now offering Windows for free to manufacturers of devices with screen sizes smaller than 9 inches.
- Windows 8.1 Update, with features to make it more friendly to mouse-and-keyboard users, is coming soon. Such features include — on desktops and laptops — booting to desktop mode by default (which the user can change if desired); the Windows Store app pinned to the taskbar at the bottom; a title bar on top with buttons to close or minimize open apps; small icons for search and powering on or off at the top right; and other features to make the Windows 8.1 experience more familiar to mouse-and-keyboard users.
- Windows Phone 8.1 will start rolling out to current Windows Phone users in the next few months and will come pre-installed in new phones starting this month. The update includes features such as as an “action screen” for notifications; more personalization options for lockscreens and the Start screen; and a keyboard that allows for Swype-like typing. In addition, for many, the update will also include Cortana, a digital voice assistant (akin to Apple’s Siri on iOS or Google Now). Cortana is launching in the U.S. as a beta, and in the U.K. and China in the second half of this year.
- Nokia is coming out with new Lumia phones, including the Lumia 930, 635 and 630.
Today’s announcements were handled largely by Terry Myerson, head of the Operating Systems group at Microsoft, and his top lieutenants, including Joe Belfiore and David Treadwell. Nokia’s Stephen Elop, who is set to re-join Microsoft soon, introduced the new Lumias.
New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella appeared at the end, answering pre-videotaped questions from developers. He didn’t say much new but retiterated his vision of Microsoft: “To thrive in this world of mobile first, cloud first. There’s going to be more ubiquitous computing everywhere and more ambient intelligence everywhere.”
Here’s my live blog of the keynote:
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