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Thursday, May 11, 2017
Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Plays Nicely With iPhones and Android Devices

The second day of Microsoft's BUILD 2017 conference brings news about the an update to Windows 10, which add features that are likely to benefit users of mobile devices that run rival mobile operating systems iOS and Android.

The "Redstone 3" version of Windows 10, which Microsoft has decided to christen officially as the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update of the operating system will include the "Pick Up Where You Left Off" feature. This self-described feature will allow users to finish editing a document where they left off, with Cortana acting as the broker between Windows, iOS, and/or Android. Microsoft describes the effect as "having your PC and your phone finish each other's sentences." The feature will also work with an app, document, or website.

In addition, the new Clipboard in Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will allow users to copy and paste almost anything (text, photos, maps, GIFs) between their Windows PCs, iOS, and Android devices as long as they have Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboards installed.

Centerpiece of Microsoft strategy is also Microsoft Graph, the company's unified application programming interface.

The Microsoft Graph is a unified gateway for multiple Microsoft programming interfaces and graph data that was formerly known as the Office 365 Unified application programming interface (API). Microsoft initially made Microsoft Graph generally available in November 2015, and has been focused on making Microsoft Graph more consumable by developers since that time.

Built on .NET and distributed through the Windows Store as a Universal Windows Application, Windows Story Remix uses AI and deep learning to organize and transform photos and videos into stories. It will use the Microsoft Graph to connect users across devices. Story Remix brings memories, photos and videos together to create stories with a soundtrack, theme and cinematic transitions. Users can also create mixed reality by adding 3-D objects to photos and videos to tell stories in a whole new way, or turn photos and videos into a canvas, drawing on them with Windows Ink.

Microsoft added a number of new API endpoints to its Microsoft Graph. In addition to the existing Azure Active Directory, Outlook (mail, calendar and contacts), Office 365 groups, OneDrive drives and files and Excel, there are also APIs for Planner, OneNote, and SharePoint sites now. Preview/beta versions of APIs for Microsoft Teams, Insights, SharePoint Lists, Outlook Tasks, Intune, Office 365 Reporting, and Project Rome are all available, as well.

Project Rome's app-to-app communication layer enables many of these new capabilities coming with the Fall Creators Update. Microsoft is making its Project Rome software development kit (SDK) available for iOS today; it's already available for the Universal Windows Platform and Android.

Microsoft is also bringing later this year additional popular applications to the Windows Store, including iTunes , Autodesk SketchBook and SAP Digital Boardroom.

Coming with the Windows 10 update is Timeline - a new feature that improves the Task View area to provide a list of apps and workspaces that you were using previously or on other devices. Timeline also combines with the new Pick Up Where You Left Off feature to let you resume sessions and apps on multiple devices.

Microsoft's coming replacement for its Placeholder technology, known as OneDrive Files on Demand, will allow users to access all their files on their various devices through Windows 10 Fall Creators Update's File Explorer. Even the new Xamarin Live Player, introduced today at Build, which will allow developers to build, test, and debug iPhone applications from their Windows PCs, could be seen as part of this idea that users' Windows experiences can move with them across Windows, iOS, and Android.

To use the new features in Windows 10, users will need a Microsoft account to sign in on those devices and share information.

In addition, Microsoft officially unveiled its Fluent Design System, known previously as Project Neon, and intended to help developers build engaging applications that work on multiple types of systems. Although the new Windows interface will come later this year, the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will include some of this new Fluent Design System. Most of the changes include subtle additions like blur effects, which is a type of design we saw back with Windows Vista. Fluent Design System is designed to be the true successor to Microsoft's Metro design, and will appear across apps and services on Windows, iOS, and Android.

Microsoft also today also revealed more developer support for its Universal Windows Platform (UWP).

UWP capabilities are coming to Visual Studio Mobile Center this fall through automated build support and a full range of Windows devices available in Microsoft's test cloud, the company said. Mobile Center provides application life cycle management for mobile apps.

Moving on, Microsoft announced .Net Standard for UWP and XAML Standard, both due later this year, to help Windows developers simplify and modernize their existing code base to more easily drive cross-platform engagement, said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft.

Microsoft also unveiled a mixed-reality controller that will work with virtual-reality goggles being developed by hardware makers using Microsoft's software. The controller will work without requiring the placement of sensors in a room. Acer will bundle the controller and the goggles for $399 for the holiday shopping season, with pre-orders starting today.

HP will also announce a mixed-reality developer kit priced at $329 for the headset alone. HP's headset will also ship by summer, while headsets from other manufacturers like Asus and Dell are expected later in the year.

The new motion controllers are tracking the position not just of the user but also any real-world objects, which must either be avoided or marked. With the controllers, Microsoft's promising you'll be able to participate in the new world of mixed reality, no markers required.

Using Windows 10, developers can code apps for both augmented reality devices like the HoloLens and mixed-reality/VR devices like Acer's headset.

The HoloLens and the mixed-reality devices already use "inside out" tracking to establish the headset's position without the need for external sensors like those in the HTC Vive. However, the HoloLens costs $3,000 for the developer edition, which will only be sold to commercial partners and developers. At $399, the Acer headset will be about $100 less than the base price of the Oculus Rift, and about $200 less than the Rift plus Oculus Touch controllers.

Microsoft is embracing more fully the notion that customers use multiple devices and that many, particularly the mobile gadgets, don't run Windows. The company has already made Office available to rival mobile operating systems, and now wants to put Windows in the mix.

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