Microsoft and Cyanogen to Integrate Cortana in Cyanogen OS

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2015 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, CyanogenMod, cyanogen, cortana

A few months ago, Cyanogen and Microsoft have agreed to bring some of the latter's services into the former's distribution of Android. While apps like Skype and OneNote will likely be the same experience as if the user just downloaded the apps directly, other Microsoft services could benefit from a tighter integration, such as OneDrive -- although we don't have any news on that front.

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Another example is Cortana, and Cyanogen's CEO has just announced that the digital assistant is coming to the next version of Cyanogen OS. One of the distribution's goals is to create a version of Android that is not reliant upon Google's services, which initially sounds like they aim to eliminate these low-level services. With this announcement, it sounds more like they just want to inject third parties in its place, with Microsoft being at least the early partner.

This is a definite win for Microsoft on the services side of things. While I'm sure that many fans of the corporation believe that Microsoft is watering down their ecosystem, the company no longer views their software platform as the bounds of their market share. This deal is clearly acceptable to them, because they made it.

Source: ZDNet

Cortana for Android Invite-Only Beta Launches

Subject: Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Android, microsoft, windows, windows 10, cortana

When it graduated from high school, Microsoft was voted “least likely to have an open relationship with itself”. Well who's laughing now, member of the Yearbook Committee? You thought you were so clever, sitting in the back of the late bus for students in extra-curricular activities, giggling as you doodled in your Five Star binder. Even though they always hogged the Windows seat, maybe they would have opened it up for a little fresh air in the Summer time had you taken the time to ask.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

While Cortana is first and foremost a Windows 10 feature, it will appear on iOS and Android as well. Peter Bright of Ars Technica got in on the pre-release, invite-only beta and walked through the features. He notes that, while many have complained about crashes, his experienced wasn't marred with stability issues. On the other hand, because Cortana is not as deeply integrated into the operating system, despite the laundry list of permissions it requests, he expects that most users looking for a digital assistant will look to Google Now on their Android devices, even if they use Cortana on Windows 10.

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Image Credit: Ars Technica

There really wasn't a whole lot of note in the article though, at least in my opinion. There are a few interesting screenshots, but it basically looks like someone grafted the Cortana fly-out menu from Windows 10 onto a fullscreen mobile device. Even though I already saw the similarities in the Windows 10 Technical Previews, it is funny to see it so explicit.

No release date has been set for Cortana on Android or iOS.

Source: Ars Technica

Lenovo Tech World: REACHit Announced with Cortana

Subject: General Tech, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, reachit, microsoft, Lenovo, cortana

Yesterday during briefings at Lenovo’s North Campus just outside of Beijing, the Contextual Computing group took the opportunity to discuss their unique integration of a technology called REACHit with Cortana on Windows 10.

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REACHit is an indexing program that Lenovo has developed which is aimed at helping users find their documents among many different services and contexts. Once you authenticate REACHit with your accounts such as Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive, or your local computers, Lenovo makes an index of the files which you keep there to help you more easily locate what you are looking for.

The most unique feature of REACHit comes in how you issue a search query. Lenovo has developed multiple contexts which they think will be useful in locating files, such as File Type, File Actions, Location, Calendar Events, and time frames. They are indexing the files you give them access to for these specific prompts, and hoping to present them in a more useful fashion.

One of the examples we were walked through involved the prompt, “Where is the presentation I was working on at Starbucks last week?”. In this case, Lenovo is looking at the file types (PPT), whether or not a file was Saved/Opened, the geolocation which this occurred at, and the time frame at which these operations took place.

We didn’t see a live demo of these searches working, and haven’t had hands-on time with the software yet so it’s hard to say if Lenovo has succeeded at their goal, but the technology seems like an interesting solution to a common problem.

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There are also security concerns about giving Lenovo access to all of your files, and letting them build an index your metadata. We have been told there is encryption being handled on Lenovo’s server side, but they couldn’t get into any further details about this.

REACHit at this point is purely integrated with Microsoft’s Cortana in Windows 10, and there is no other option for running a search or external API access. Lenovo expects REACHit to be available at the Windows 10 launch for Lenovo machines only, and is currently opening sign-ups for the private beta at Cortanareachit.com

Source: Lenovo

Windows 10 Consumer Briefing Predictions

Subject: General Tech | January 20, 2015 - 09:45 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, windows, spartan, microsoft, dx12, DirectX 12, DirectX, cortana

Microsoft will hold a briefing tomorrow (Wednesday, January 21st at 12pm EST/5pm UTC) about “The Next Chapter” of Windows 10. This has been described as the Consumer keynote, mirroring the original one that was supposedly intended for the enterprise. Otherwise, there are few official comments regarding the event, but there are also things that we can speculate on.

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Here is what I expect to see:

A New Build for Windows 10

Maybe it will not be released on the same day as the speech, but it cannot really be too far behind. We are about two-thirds through January and December was skipped, so it must be happening soon. When 9879 was released, Microsoft said that it would be the last build of 2014 and that “We'll have something new to share with you early in 2015”. Whatever that is (or those things are) will probably be discussed at the event, which means that the build is probably not too far behind it.

DirectX 12

When the graphics API was announced, they specifically said the following (see our recap for the second slide that was posted at 10:48am PST):

  • Targeting Holiday 2015 games
  • Preview release coming later this year
  • Don't want to wait that long? Early access!

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The preview release later in 2014 did not happen, but the early access did. As such, I am guessing that the date slipped to either the next Windows 10 build, or maybe a build or two after. Whenever it happens specifically, I am guessing that it will be mentioned at this event and available for developers soon (and not just a hand-picked group of Early Access members). Sure, it could wait until Build 2015 in April, but the original slide sounds like they were targeting the end of 2014.

Also, the DirectX 12 Twitter Account just retweeted the live stream and Phil Spencer will be there.

'Spartan' Browser (Maybe with DirectX 12 Support?)

Speaking of DirectX 12, its goal is to utilize GPU shader cores as efficiently as possible, reducing the time it holds up the CPU and balancing its load across multiple cores. This leads to power efficiency and the ability to load many more tasks on the GPU.

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Image Credit: cnBeta.com via TheVerge

These are all things that a web browser vendor would love! Web standards are inherently difficult to multi-thread, because they are designed as sets of stages which build upon other stages. DirectX 12 could probably help immensely, at least with the drawing stage. Web content tends to be fairly simple, but there can be a lot of it, especially for complex Canvas animations (and especially for mobile devices).

It was also recently rumored that Trident, the rendering engine behind Internet Explorer and the not-quite-confirmed Spartan browser, was forked into two maintained versions. The expectation is that this was for compatibility reasons, where the new version can be developed to W3C (and other) standards without worrying about legacy, Internet Explorer-based compatibility cruft. If porting a DirectX 11 applications to DirectX 12 will be annoying, I can see why Microsoft chose to draw the compatibility line just behind that initiative. And honestly, how many people care about rendering, power, and multi-core performance increases for IE8-designed, and therefore desktop-based, web applications?

Continuum, Cortana, and Other Changes

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Again, this is what Microsoft considers a Consumer event. As such, it would make sense for them to describe an ideal consumer device, which probably includes two-in-ones. Cortana should also be discussed as well, which is intended to bring value to the users and probably lead them to Bing services. Leaks have also suggested that they are preparing a dark theme.

Am I right? We'll see tomorrow.

Source: Microsoft