The next generation of Windows: Windows 10

Today I had the honor of sharing new information about Windows 10, the new generation of Windows.

Our team shared more Windows 10 experiences and how Windows 10 will inspire new scenarios across the broadest range of devices, from big screens to small screens to no screens at all. You can catch the video on-demand presentation here.

Windows 10 is the first step to an era of more personal computing. This vision framed our work on Windows 10, where we are moving Windows from its heritage of enabling a single device – the PC – to a world that is more mobile, natural and grounded in trust. We believe your experiences should be mobile – not just your devices. Technology should be out of the way and your apps, services and content should move with you across devices, seamlessly and easily. In our connected and transparent world, we know that people care deeply about privacy – and so do we. That’s why everything we do puts you in control – because you are our customer, not our product. We also believe that interacting with technology should be as natural as interacting with people – using voice, pen, gestures and even gaze for the right interaction, in the right way, at the right time. These concepts led our development and you saw them come to life today.

Delivering Windows as a Service and a Free Upgrade to Windows 10

Today was a monumental day for us on the Windows team because we shared our desire to redefine the relationship we have with you – our customers. We announced that a free upgrade for Windows 10 will be made available to customers running Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 who upgrade in the first year after launch.*

This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no cost. With Windows 10, the experience will evolve and get even better over time. We’ll deliver new features when they’re ready, not waiting for the next major release. We think of Windows as a Service – in fact, one could reasonably think of Windows in the next couple of years as one of the largest Internet services on the planet.

And just like any Internet service, the idea of asking “What version are you on?” will cease to make sense – which is great news for our Windows developers. With universal Windows apps that work across the entire device family, developers can build one app that targets the broadest range of devices – including the PC, tablet, phone, Xbox, the Internet of Things, and more.

For our enterprise customers, we’ll continue to support the way many of them work today, with long-term servicing for their mission critical environments. With Windows 10, a best practice we recommend for many enterprise devices is to connect to Windows Update and be kept up-to-date with the latest security and productivity improvements as soon as they are available. You can learn more about our commitment to enterprises here, with much more to come in the following months.

Everything about Windows 10 – the experiences, delivering it as a service and the free upgrade – means ongoing value to all our customers. The new generation of Windows is a commitment—a commitment to liberate people from technology and enable them to do great things.

New Windows 10 Experiences

Together with our Windows Insiders, we’re well way on our way to making Windows 10 the largest-ever open collaborative development effort Microsoft has ever shipped. Since we launched the Windows Insider Program in September, we’ve been joined by 1.7 million Windows Insiders, who have delivered over 800,000 pieces of feedback. We are truly co-creating the future of Windows with you and we’re humbled by your valuable role in this new open development process.

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Today, we shared new details on the experience coming to Windows 10, including:

Cortana, Microsoft’s personal digital assistant, comes to PC and tablet, for the first time with Windows 10. Cortana learns your preferences to provide relevant recommendations, fast access to information, and important reminders. Interaction is natural and easy via talking or typing, with advanced features to control Cortana for more trustworthiness and transparency.

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Windows 10 for phones and tablets – Windows 10 for phones and small tablets features a fast, fluid and familiar experience that seamlessly interacts with your PC.

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A new web experience for Windows 10 – Code-named “Project Spartan,” the next generation browser was built with greater interoperability, reliability and discoverability, with a new look and feel built just for Windows 10. Advanced features include the ability to annotate by keyboard or pen directly on the webpage and easily share with friends, a reading view that is distraction free, displaying the article in a simplified layout for a great reading experience for Web articles online and offline, and the integration of Cortana for finding and doing things online faster.

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Office universal apps on Windows 10 offer a consistent, touch-first experience across phone, tablet and PC with new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. Designed from the ground up to run on Windows, you can easily create and edit Word documents, annotate slides in real-time with new inking features or easily present PowerPoint presentations, and with new touch-first controls in Excel you can create or update spreadsheets without a keyboard or mouse. The next version of the Office desktop suite is also currently in development, more on this in the coming months.

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New universal applications will ship with Windows 10, offering innovative new experience applications, consistent across the device continuum, for Photos, Videos, Music, Maps, People & Messaging, and Mail & Calendar. These built-in apps have an updated design that look and feel the same from app to app and device to device.  Content is stored and synced through OneDrive, enabling you to start something on one device and continue it on another.

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Xbox Live and the new Xbox App bring new game experiences to Windows 10. Xbox on Windows 10 lets gamers access the best of the expansive Xbox Live gaming network on both Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One. Players can capture, edit and share their greatest gaming moments with Game DVR, and play new games with friends across devices. Games developed for DirectX 12 in Windows 10 will see improvements in speed, efficiency and graphics capability. Players will also be able to play games on their PC, streamed directly from their Xbox One consoles to their Windows 10 tablets or PCs, within their home. Read more on Xbox Wire.

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Continuum Mode:  On 2in1 devices, Windows 10 will move easily between keyboard/mouse and touch/tablet as it detects the transition and conveniently switches to the new mode.

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These are just a few of the great experiences showcased today.

New Windows 10 Devices

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But it’s not enough to deliver great software experiences. Windows 10 supports the broadest device family ever – from PCs, tablets and 2-in-1s to phones to Xbox and the Internet of Things. And today, we welcomed two new devices to the Windows 10 family: Microsoft Surface Hub and Microsoft HoloLens.

Windows 10 Showcases Holographic Future with Microsoft HoloLens

It was a special moment this morning when we were able to share that Windows 10 is the world’s first holographic computing platform – complete with a set of APIs that enable developers to create holographic experiences in the real world. With Windows 10, holograms are Windows universal apps and Windows universal apps can work as holograms, making it possible to place three-dimensional holograms in the world around you to communicate, create and explore in a manner that is far more personal and human.

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Showcasing the possibilities of holograms in Windows 10, Microsoft HoloLens is the world’s first untethered holographic computer – no wires, phones or connection to a PC needed. Microsoft HoloLens allows you to view holograms in high definition and hear them in surround sound, even if they are behind you. And with advanced sensors, Microsoft HoloLens can see what you are looking at and understand what you are communicating with your hands and voice.  By putting you at the center of the Windows 10 computing experience, Microsoft HoloLens allows you to create, access information, enjoy entertainment, and communicate in new and exciting ways.

Microsoft Surface Hub Unlocks the Power of Group Computing

From no screen to 84”, with Microsoft Surface Hub we introduced a new large screen device designed for the way teams in the workplace naturally interact and come together.  Custom versions of Skype for Business and OneNote are integrated into the Windows 10 shell to take full advantage of the built in cameras, sensors and mics, as well as the new screen that was built from the ground up for ink and touch. The Surface Hub features state of the art digital white boarding, instant remote conferencing, the ability for multiple people to share and edit content on the screen from any device, and a trusted platform for large-screen apps. Available in two sizes – 55” and 84” – the Surface Hub removes the current limitations of traditional conference room scenarios to empower teams to create their best work together.

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In Closing

Windows 10 will forge a new relationship between us and our customers – consumers, developers and enterprises. Today was an important next chapter of our Windows 10 story, but there is much more to come. Thank you for joining us on this journey. We’ll deliver the next chapters over the coming months at Game Developers Conference, WinHEC, Mobile World Congress and Build.

A special thank-you to our Windows Insiders – we couldn’t build Windows 10 without you. In the next week, we will release the latest build for Windows Insiders running the Windows 10 Technical Preview on PCs and expand availability to 25 more languages. And later in February, we’ll release our first technical preview for phones.

To learn more about Windows 10 and these exciting new devices, sign up for more information about the free upgrade, or to join the Windows Insider Program, please click here.

– Terry

*Hardware and software requirements apply. No additional charge. Feature availability may vary by device. Some editions excluded. More details at http://www.windows.com.

Twitter app for Windows Phone receives a nice update

The Twitter app for Windows Phone 8.1 is receiving a nice update today that adds a couple of new features. With this update, you can now use Cortana to launch a new Tweet in the Twitter app by saying something like “Cortana, Twitter new Tweet I love Twitter”. You can also now share websites from Internet Explorer on your Windows Phone to the Twitter app. If you don’t have the Twitter app installed, you can download it here from the Windows Phone Store.

There is a bug in older builds of Windows Phone 8.1 that prevents the Twitter app from launching when you tap on the tile. You will want to make sure you are running the latest available update for your Windows Phone (or from the Preview for Developers if you are running a preview build) before installing this update. If you do encounter this issue, there are a few steps you can take to get the Twitter app working again: you can go to Settings > Backup > apps + settings and choose “Backup now”. Alternatively you could try to uninstall and reinstall the app.

 

64-bit and iOS 8 Requirements Start Soon

As a reminder, beginning February 1, 2015 new iOS apps submitted to the App Store must include 64-bit support and be built with the iOS 8 SDK. To enable 64-bit in your project, we recommend using the default Xcode build setting of “Standard architectures” to build a single binary with both 32-bit and 64-bit code.

How Google Analytics helps you make better decisions for your apps

Posted by Russell Ketchum, Lead Product Manager, Google Analytics for Mobile Apps

Knowing how your customers use your app is the foundation to keeping them happy and engaged. It’s important to track downloads and user ratings, but the key to building a successful business is using data to dive deeper into understanding the full acquisition funnel and what makes users stick around.

Google Analytics is the easiest way to understand more about what your users are doing inside your app on Google Play, while also simultaneously tracking your users across the web and other mobile platforms. To show how Google Analytics can help, we’ve created a new “Analyze” section on the Android Developers website for you to check out. We provide guidance on how to design a measurement plan and implement effective in-app analytics – and take advantage of features only available between Google Play and Google Analytics.

The Google Play Referral Flow in Analytics

Google Analytics for mobile apps provides a comprehensive view into your app’s full user lifecycle, including user acquisition, composition, in app behavior, and key conversions. Our Analytics Academy course on mobile app analytics is also a great resource to learn the fundamentals.

Eltsoft LLC, a foreign language learning and education app developer for Android, recognized early on how impactful Google Analytics would have on the company’s ability to quickly improve on its apps and meet user needs.

Analytics has really helped us to track the effectiveness of the changes to our app. I would say six months ago, that our success was a mystery. The data said we were doing well, but the whys were not clear. Therefore, we couldn’t replicate or push forward. But today, we understand what’s happening and can project our future success. We have not only the data, but can control certain variables allowing us to understand that data. – Jason Byrne, Eltsoft LLC

Here are some powerful tips to make the most of Google Analytics:

  1. Understand the full acquisition funnel
  2. Uniquely integrated with the Google Play Developer Console, Google Analytics gives you a comprehensive view of the Google Play Referral Flow. By linking Analytics to the Developer Console, you can track useful data on how users move through the acquisition flow from your marketing efforts to the Google Play store listing to the action of launching the app. If you find that a significant number of users browse your app in Google Play, but don’t install it, for example, you can then focus your efforts on improving your store listing.

  3. Unlock powerful insights on in-app purchases
  4. Monitoring in-app purchases in the Google Play Developer Console will show you the total revenue your app is generating, but it does not give you the full picture about your paying users. By instrumenting your app with the Google Analytics ecommerce tracking, you’ll get a fuller understanding of what paying users do inside your app. For example, you can find out which acquisition channels deliver users who stay engaged and go on to become the highest value users.

  5. Identify roadblocks and common paths with the Behavior Flow
  6. Understanding how users move through your app is best done with in-app analytics. With Google Analytics, you can easily spot if a significant percentage of users leave your app during a specific section. For example, if you see significant drop off on a certain level of your game, you may want to make that level easier, so that more users complete the level and progress through the game. Similarly, if you find users who complete a tutorial stay engaged with your app, you might put the tutorial front and center for first-time users.

  7. Segment your audience to find valuable insights
  8. Aggregated data can help you answer questions about overall trends in your app. If you want to unlock deeper insights about what drives your users’ behavior, you can slice and dice your data using segmentation, such as demographics, behavior, or install date. If something changes in one of your key metrics, segmentation can help you get to the root of the issue — for example, was a recent app update unpopular with users from one geographic area, or were users with a certain device or carrier affected by a bug?

  9. Use custom data to measure what matters for your business
  10. Simply activating the Google Analytics library gives you many out-of-the-box metrics without additional work, such as daily and monthly active users, session duration, breakdowns by country, and many more variables. However, it’s likely that your app has many user actions or data types that are unique to it, which are critical to building an engaged user base. Google Analytics provides events, custom dimensions, and custom metrics so you can craft a measurement strategy that fits your app and business.

  11. No more one-size-fits-all ad strategy
  12. If you’re a developer using AdMob to monetize your app, you can now see all of your Analytics data in the AdMob dashboard. Running a successful app business is all about reaching the right user with the right ad or product at the right time. If you create specific user segments in Google Analytics, you can target each segment with different ad products. For example, try targeting past purchasers with in-app purchase ads, while monetizing users who don’t purchase through targeted advertising.

By measuring your app performance on a granular level, you will be able to make better decisions for your business. Successful developers build their measurement plan at the same time as building their app in order to set goals and track progress against key success metrics, but it’s never too late to start.

Choose the implementation that works best for your app to get started with Google Analytics today and find out more about what you can do in the new “Analyze” section of developers.android.com.

Join the discussion on

+Android Developers

Live webcast details for our Windows 10 media briefing next week

We’re getting close to our Windows 10 media briefing next week and as promised – I’ve got the details for you on where to watch the live webcast. The live webcast will start once the event starts at 9am (Pacific) and you’ll be able to watch it here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows10story. An on-demand version will be available shortly after the event at the same link. We’re pretty excited about this event and to be able to talk about what’s next for Windows 10. You’ll hear directly from senior leaders from the Operating Systems Group including Terry Myerson, Joe Belfiore and Phil Spencer as well as our CEO Satya Nadella!

Lumia 435 and 532 smartphones announced today

Today we announced two new affordable Lumia smartphones: the Lumia 435 and the Lumia 532. The Lumia 435 is our first 400-series Lumia smartphone. Both these devices will come with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Denim Update pre-installed. With Windows Phone 8.1, you get awesome features like Cortana – your very own personal digital assistant – as well as Action Center, Word Flow, and the ability to organize all your favorite apps into folders from the Windows Phone Store on your Start screen. The Lumia Denim Update brings specific enhancements for Lumia smartphones such as the new Lumia Camera.

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The Lumia 532 has a premium layered design and features the Glance screen. The Lumia 435 has a 2 megapixel rear camera, while the Lumia 532 has a 5 megapixel rear camera. Both the Lumia 435 and Lumia 532 have a 4-inch WVGA LCD (800×480) display. The Lumia 435 will come with a 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 200 processor while the Lumia 532 comes with a more powerful quad-core processor. Both smartphones also come with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of memory with expandable memory up to 128GB with a micro-SD card.

The Lumia 435 and Lumia 532 will be available in 3G single SIM and 3G Smart Dual SIM in bright green, bright orange, white and black. They will begin rolling out in February in select countries in Europe, Asia-Pacific, India, the Middle East and Africa. Pricing and availability will vary by carrier and market. For more information on these two new Lumia smartphones – see this Lumia Conversations blog post.

Efficient Game Textures with Hardware Compression

Posted by Shanee Nishry, Developer Advocate

As you may know, high resolution textures contribute to better graphics and a more impressive game experience. Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC) helps solve many of the challenges involved including reducing memory footprint and loading time and even increase performance and battery life.

If you have a lot of textures, you are probably already compressing them. Unfortunately, not all compression algorithms are made equal. PNG, JPG and other common formats are not GPU friendly. Some of the highest-quality algorithms today are proprietary and limited to certain GPUs. Until recently, the only broadly supported GPU accelerated formats were relatively primitive and produced poor results.

With the introduction of ASTC, a new compression technique invented by ARM and standardized by the Khronos group, we expect to see dramatic changes for the better. ASTC promises to be both high quality and broadly supported by future Android devices. But until devices with ASTC support become widely available, it’s important to understand the variety of legacy formats that exist today.

We will examine preferable compression formats which are supported on the GPU to help you reduce .apk size and loading times of your game.

Texture Compression

Popular compressed formats include PNG and JPG, which can’t be decoded directly by the GPU. As a consequence, they need to be decompressed before copying them to the GPU memory. Decompressing the textures takes time and leads to increased loading times.

A better option is to use hardware accelerated formats. These formats are lossy but have the advantage of being designed for the GPU.

This means they do not need to be decompressed before being copied and result in decreased loading times for the player and may even lead to increased performance due to hardware optimizations.

Hardware Accelerated Formats

Hardware accelerated formats have many benefits. As mentioned before, they help improve loading times and the runtime memory footprint.

Additionally, these formats help improve performance, battery life and reduce heating of the device, requiring less bandwidth while also consuming less energy.

There are two categories of hardware accelerated formats, standard and proprietary. This table shows the standard formats:

ETC1 Supported on all Android devices with OpenGL ES 2.0 and above. Does not support alpha channel.
ETC2 Requires OpenGL ES 3.0 and above.
ASTC Higher quality than ETC1 and ETC2. Supported with the Android Extension Pack.

As you can see, with higher OpenGL support you gain access to better formats. There are proprietary formats to replace ETC1, delivering higher quality and alpha channel support. These are shown in the following table:

ATC Available with Adreno GPU.
PVRTC Available with a PowerVR GPU.
DXT1 S3 DXT1 texture compression. Supported on devices running Nvidia Tegra platform.
S3TC S3 texture compression, nonspecific to DXT variant. Supported on devices running Nvidia Tegra platform.

That’s a lot of formats, revealing a different problem. How do you choose which format to use?

To best support all devices you need to create multiple apks using different texture formats. The Google Play developer console allows you to add multiple apks and will deliver the right one to the user based on their device. For more information check this page.

When a device only supports OpenGL ES 2.0 it is recommended to use a proprietary format to get the best results possible, this means making an apk for each hardware.

On devices with access to OpenGL ES 3.0 you can use ETC2. The GL_COMPRESSED_RGBA8_ETC2_EAC format is an improved version of ETC1 with added alpha support.

The best case is when the device supports the Android Extension Pack. Then you should use the ASTC format which has better quality and is more efficient than the other formats.

Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC)

The Android Extension Pack has ASTC as a standard format, removing the need to have different formats for different devices.

In addition to being supported on modern hardware, ASTC also offers improved quality over other GPU formats by having full alpha support and better quality preservation.

ASTC is a block based texture compression algorithm developed by ARM. It offers multiple block footprints and bitrate options to lower the size of the final texture. The higher the block footprint, the smaller the final file but possibly more quality loss.

Note that some images compress better than others. Images with similar neighboring pixels tend to have better quality compared to images with vastly different neighboring pixels.

Let’s examine a texture to better understand ASTC:

This bitmap is 1.1MB uncompressed and 299KB when compressed as PNG.

Compressing the Android jellybean jar texture into ASTC through the Mali GPU Texture Compression Tool yields the following results.

Block Footprint 4×4 6×6 8×8
Memory 262KB 119KB 70KB
Image Output
Difference Map
5x Enhanced Difference Map

As you can see, the highest quality (4×4) bitrate for ASTC already gains over PNG in memory size. Unlike PNG, this gain stays even after copying the image to the GPU.

The tradeoff comes in the detail, so it is important to carefully examine textures when compressing them to see how much compression is acceptable.

Conclusion

Using hardware accelerated textures in your games will help you reduce the size of your .apk, runtime memory use as well as loading times.

Improve performance on a wider range of devices by uploading multiple apks with different GPU texture formats and declaring the texture type in the AndroidManifest.xml.

If you are aiming for high end devices, make sure to use ASTC which is included in the Android Extension Pack.

What a Way to Begin the Year

The first week of January set a new record for the App Store, with customers around the world spending nearly half a billion dollars on apps and in-app purchases. New Year’s Day marked the single biggest day ever in App Store sales history. Your incredible apps generated over $10 billion for you and your peers last year, and to date, developers have earned a cumulative $25 billion from the sale of apps and games. See the full press release.