Neil Turner, our man on the ground in San Fran reports on Day 1 of Build.
Neil Turner is one of Ireland’s top independent Windows developers having built Bus Nearby, Broadsheet, Fuel Nearby and Xbox apps and a convention veteran. Neil has agreed to be our man on the ground at Build and provide daily reports on the announcements, the sentiment amongst developers and things you might not see in the keynotes.
Build kicked off early on Wednesday morning with 3 hour long keynote, luckily the coffee was plentiful. Windows Phone 8.1 was up first, and it was great to see it running on an actual device.
Of the many new features, a new custom Lockscreen was demoed. Instead of slide-up-to-unlock, a developer will have the ability (in future) to create a totally new experience. This was one of the few features I was totally unaware of, and I’m really excited to see what developers to with it - and it’s yet another way to truly personalise your Windows Phone.
Next up was the much anticipated Cortana. iOS has Siri, Android has Google Now, and finally Windows Phone has its own “personal digital assistant”. She’ll learn who and what is important to you, answer questions about the weather or sports, and acts as a universal search for all your phone. Developers can also take advantage of Cortana’s natural language processing to help make a video call in Skype or start the Facebook app and view someone’s feed - very impressive to see it work.
Windows Phone 8.1 also adds new enterprise integration. VPN support has finally been added, great for companies and anyone concerned with privacy. Companies who manage their Windows Phones can now easily add, remove, and even blacklist apps - and if you leave that organisation, your phone is restored to how it was before you joined.
So what’s new for developers? Universal apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.1. With this new type of Visual Studio solution, you have a project for both Windows8 and Windows Phone 8.1, and 3rd shared project type. This shared project holds all the common code between the two apps, which can be the majority of your code as both the APIs and UI controls between the platforms are now the same. And best of all, you only have to submit one .appx file to the Windows Store. Personally, I’m really looking forward to upgrading my apps to 8.1.
The other big news for developer is WinJS, now for Windows Phone 8.1. And Xbox One, which was a real surprise. Microsoft really wants this technology to be on everything. And now it pretty much is!
The Windows 8.1 Update was also detailed and adds many features to make navigation of Windows Store apps that bit easier for keyboard and mouse users. The update is free and will be out on Tuesday (April 8th), but if you have MSDN access, you can grab it now.
And last but certainly not least, Nokia announced three new Lumia devices - the Lumia 930, essentially an international version of the gorgeous Lumia Icon, the Lumia 630 and 635 which are new low-cost Lumia phones, the latter being a 4G variant. All three phones run Windows Phone 8.1 and will be launched in the coming months.
Despite the length of the keynote, there are many more features in both Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update. For the full rundown, check the Windows Phone Blog (http://blogs.windows.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2014/04/02/cortana-yes-and-many-many-other-great-features-coming-in-windows-phone-8-1.aspx)
and the Windows Blog (http://blogs.windows.com/windows/b/windowsexperience/archive/2014/04/02/windows-8-1-update-important-refinements-to-the-windows-experience.aspx)
Share your opinions on Build Day 1 in the comments and come back tomorrow when Neil will be writing about Scott Guthrie’s Azure keynote and he will provide more details on other sessions at build. Remember you can watch all the keynotes and sessions on https://channel9.msdn.com