Microsoft Build Developers Conference 2014 Overview
Microsoft hosted it's annual developers conference this past week in San Francisco. Here is a full recap of everything that was announced.
Windows Phone 8.1
The first item on Microsoft's announcement checklist was Windows Phone 8.1. The operating system update is set to launch in the next coming months and brings a number of new features, including a notification drop-down menu called Action Center.
Windows Phone users will receive the ability to use a customizable lock screen and they will get an update to the Windows Store, which will make it easier for users to find the apps they want. The update also brings a new calendar design and "Shape Writing," the ability to swipe instead of typing, similar to the feature on Android.
Along with all the great updates included in Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft had another feature up its sleeve, called Cortana. Cortana is a personal digital assistant for Windows Phone 8.1, which was designed as the company's answer to Apple's Siri and Google Now.
The assistant does everything you would expect from a digital assistant on your phone. Users can use Cortana to help you compose emails and texts, set reminders, take notes and search the web. Much like Google Now, Cortana will get smarter as time goes on and as you enable her to access more information.
A new Notebook feature allows users to input a lot of this information yourself, including Quiet Hours when you'd rather not be interrupted by phone calls, even select people, like your family, can still get through. The digital assistant has been named after Master Chief's assistant from the iconic game Halo.
Microsoft also announced an update to its desktop operating system that will be coming as an update to Windows 8.1. The update is focused at mouse and keyboard users bringing multiple keyboard and mouse shortcuts back to Windows. Users can now pin metro-style apps to the desktop, and the Windows Store will be pinned to the task bar by default.
The update to Windows 8.1 brings the ability to boot to desktop and adds the ability for users to right click on metro tiles and get options. Metro-style apps now have a title bar that includes an "X" allowing users to close full screen apps much more easily. the update will be coming in the next few weeks.
The Start Menu's Coming Back
Microsoft casually announced that they will be bringing the start menu back to Windows. The feature will not be coming in the next Windows update, but Microsoft said it will be coming in a future update, possibly later this year or next year.
New Lumia Phones
Along with al those announcements, Nokia's CEO took the stage to announce plenty of new Numia devices, the Lumia 930, 630 and 635.
The Lumia 930 is Nokia's new flagship phone which looks like the Nokia Icon which only launch on Verizon. The phone has a 5-inch, 1080p screen, a 20-megapixel PureView camera, a quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, and comes in multiple colour options.
The Lumia 630 and 635 are more or less identical to each other in terms of hardware deign. Both have a 4.5-inch screen with a 854 x 480 display, 5-megpaixel camera, Snapdragon 400 processor and a modest 512MB of RAM. The main difference is that the 630 is 3G-only with a choice of a single-or dual-SIM setup. The 635, meanwhile, runs on LTE and uses just one SIM. The Lumia 630 will cost $159 / $169 off-contract, depending on whether you get the single- or dual-SIM version. The 635, meanwhile, will cost $189.
Windows For Manufacturers
Additionally, Microsoft announced that Windows would be free for phones, tablets smaller than nine inches, and miscellaneous gadgets that fall into the "Internet of Things" category, which means wearable devices. That gives manufacturers a bigger incentive to build Windows devices, which can only mean more options for consumers.
During the keynote, Microsoft focused heavily on developers. The biggest announcement is that developers will be able to create universal apps for smartphones, tablets, and PCs.
Developers will now be able to create apps across multiple platforms (windows phones, tablets, etc.) and reuse common code and APIs, eliminating the need for multiple app versions. All keynote and developer videos can be found here.
Above is the day one keynote and it is well worth a watch (note: the keynote is almost 3 hours long).