The Fire Hose

Covering the news of the day at Microsoft

June, 2013

  • Amana reinvents appliance shopping (halleluiah!) with Kinect for Windows and Windows Embedded

    If you’ve ever gone appliance shopping, you know it’s not fun. However – and trust me on this – you don’t want to make an uninformed choice and risk suffering years with the wrong appliance. Maybe that’s why folks were buzzing around the new Amana demo that was on the floor at Build 2013 this week. The showcase was an engaging in-store experience developed for the Amana brand using Kinect for Windows and Windows Embedded 8 Industry.

  • New HonestBaby app for Windows Phone captures the moments that matter

    The new HonestBaby app for Windows Phone is a big deal for parents with little ones. This handy app lets you track everyday moments like feedings, diaper changes, sleep patterns, doctor visits and growth, as well as special milestones you don’t want to forget.

  • Windows Phone apps MyFitnessPal, Bloomberg, NY Times, NBC News, Shazam and Best Buy are all freshly updated in the Store

    It’s been a big week for Windows Phone apps, and the news keeps coming: the Windows Phone Blog reports that six more popular apps are freshly updated today in the Windows Phone Store.

    Some of my favorite news apps are in the mix, including a new version of NY Times with Live Tile capabilities and more free content, as well as Bloomberg, which now offers on-demand streaming of Bloomberg TV and Radio. NBC News is also updated to add closed captioning and voice commands.

  • Take a look at the design principles behind Visual Studio 2013

    In Visual Studio 2013, we are continuing to remain true to the Microsoft design principles that helped shape Visual Studio 2012 while making refinements and improvements based on feedback.

    “We have made broad but incremental changes, some of them subtle. Our overall aim is to have VS 2013 feel familiar to VS 2012 users, but better,” writes Eric Zocher, director of design in the Developer Division in a post on The Visual Studio Blog.

    The changes come in four main areas:

    · Theme chooser and connected IDE - In Visual Studio 2013, you will be able to choose your preferred color theme when you first launch.

    · Color theme enhancements - In Visual Studio 2013 the themes have been revised to address user feedback by increasing contrast in the color palette and with the introduction of more border line work highlighting the edges of content areas.

  • Aston Martin discovers the beauty of Windows Intune

    Aston Martin sports cars (of James Bond fame) are world-renowned for their luxury, heritage and craftsmanship. They’re a quintessential icon of European design for us Americans. So how does the carmaker that’s the synonymous with high performance and perfection operate from the inside? This week at TechEd Europe 2013, Aston Martin shared a glimpse of how they use Microsoft cloud technologies and services like Windows Intune to create an IT infrastructure that’s on par with their brand.

  • Skype team shares its mobile plans for the road ahead

    When you ask people “What’s Skype?” the answer you’ll often get is, “It’s a free video calling app for your PC or Mac.” The Skype team likes that answer up to a point, but wants people to realize Skype delivers a great mobile experience as well. Find out about their plans to boost performance, quality and ease of use across Skype mobile apps.

  • Visual Studio 2013 Preview helps make good apps great


    As Build 2013 wraps up, we got to see some exciting developments, including the preview releases of Windows 8.1 and Visual Studio 2013.

    A lot of attention is going toward the latter over on The Visual Studio Blog (naturally). In this post, those folks want you to know how this update brings forward significant advances for authoring XAML-based Windows Store apps for Windows 8.1. These tips will help take good apps to the next level of great.

  • Game developers to benefit from new collaboration between Microsoft and Unity Technologies

    On Thursday at Build 2013, a new collaboration was announced  between Microsoft and Unity Technologies, which provides Unity multi-platform game engine and developer tools. This collaboration will make it even easier for developers to bring popular games, entertainment and apps to Microsoft platforms.

    Developers who build games published by Microsoft Studios now have access to Unity tools for Xbox 360 and Xbox One free of charge and can create interactive 3D and 2D experiences. Unity will develop tools for Xbox One, including support for features like multiplayer matchmaking, SmartGlass, and enhanced Kinect gestures and recognition.

  • More new features in Visual Studio 2013 Preview


    It’s been an eventful week of preview releases thanks to Build 2013, including Windows 8.1, Visual Studio 2013 and Team Foundation Server 2013.

    If you’re interested in learning more about the features now available through the latter two, you’ve got to read Brian Harry’s blog. He gives you insights and tips about the new cloud load testing experience. For those who want to go even further, he provides a link to a tutorial about it.

    Another new feature in the Visual Studio 2013 Preview is the Connected IDE. This allows you to sign in to Visual Studio and use your online profile to roam your settings across machines.  So when you log in to a new machine, Visual Studio will automatically sync your settings. (Pretty nifty, if you ask us.)

  • Steve Ballmer helps open new Microsoft Retail Store near Detroit while fans await Kelly Clarkson performance

    Detroit 2

    A new Microsoft Retail Store opened today in Troy, Michigan, not far from the heart of the American automobile industry in Detroit.

    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who hails from nearby Farmington Hills, Michigan, was on hand to help celebrate the opening of the new store.

    At 4 p.m. PT today, American Idol winner and hit recording artist Kelly Clarkson will keep the festivities going with a special performance at the new store.

  • Let’s get the Windows 8.1 party started

    The following is a post from Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft. It was originally published on The Official Microsoft Blog.

    I’ve spent the last 48 hours or so at the Moscone Center. After the past 45 days, I bet the staff there could crank out some code on their own.

    As I watched our keynotes and attended sessions, it struck me that within the past 45 days more than 15,000 developers from all around the world have made the very same pilgrimage to San Francisco, and had a very similar experience. Hotel room-to-Moscone-Center-to-hotel-room-to-Moscone Center…

    You get the picture. Not many tans among these crowds. But LOTS of optimism.

    That’s what’s great about our industry. No matter economic conditions or political strife in whatever regions of the world, the developers who’ve traveled to the Moscone Center recently, first for Google I/O, then for Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, and this week for Microsoft’s Build conference, have come with an underlying sense of optimism and a belief that the strings of code they write can improve people’s lives.

  • Time Warner Cable headed to Xbox 360 later this summer

    Today, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Time Warner Cable that will see the TWC TV app coming to Xbox 360 later this summer.

    Time Warner Cable subscribers with an Xbox Live Gold membership will be able to watch up to 300 live TV channels right from their Xbox 360 — including favorites like AMC, BBC World News, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network, HGTV and more. And unlike any other platform, you’ll be able to control your entertainment using your voice via Kinect for Xbox 360.

  • Foursquare, OpenTable, Rhapsody & more new Windows 8 apps announced at Build today

    You could say it’s the appocalypse, an app attack or an appalanche. Whatever you call it, the heavy-hitting apps keep coming to Windows and Windows Phone, and Steve Guggenheimer announced a fresh list of Windows 8 apps today at Build 2013 that’s well worth checking out.

    Here’s a look at the latest wave of Windows 8 apps coming your way:

    Find and reserve a table at your favorite restaurants or discover new places to try. Download it here.

  • Windows Server, SQL Server and System Center Previews: How to get started

    Microsoft is hoping to have a history-making year at TechEd Europe 2013, with notable advances from the Windows Server, System Center, SQL Server and Intune product teams. With all these previews released, where does one start? Both TechEd Europe and TechEd North America offered hundreds of sessions, and you can find most of them available online. However, the Server and Cloud Platform team rounded up a few other resources you might find helpful, including these technical drill-downs.

  • App developers are going to love the Windows Store for Windows 8.1

    Among all the other news Wednesday at Build 2013, Microsoft announced major improvements coming to the Windows Store. A new design, new developer features and new promotional opportunities will make the Windows Store an even better platform for app builders to monetize their creations. 

    Watch Ted Dworkin's demo to find out about the new Windows Store design and opportunities to promote and monetize your apps. You can also read more about the Store changes in the Windows 8.1 Feature Guide.

  • Telefónica keeps its 340 million customers connected using hybrid-cloud strategy

    Global telecommunications company Telefónica S.A. has 340 million customers around the world. To make sure it keeps them connected, the company is changing the way it delivers IT services to businesses using a hybrid private-public cloud strategy.

  • Three ways to maximize your IT energy efficiency to save money — and the planet

    Government agencies that want to reduce waste, become energy efficient and save money can now get some great tips from the Microsoft Green Blog.

    Following these strategies can not only reduce an organization’s carbon footprint, but also bring down long-term operating expenses on buildings, transportation infrastructure and IT equipment.

    The three tips focus on: smaller and more efficient office buildings (using IT to diagnose energy-wasting problems—and prioritizing fixes), employees who can work more remotely (using Lync and other apps to minimize commuting) and moving servers to centralized datacenters (saving energy since you can lower your building’s AC at night if you don’t have to keep server rooms cool).

    Get more details from the rest of the post. Also, for a deep dive on how Microsoft used smart building technology to create the city of the future, be sure to check out 88 Acres over on the Microsoft News Center.

  • Telefónica puts its muscle behind Windows Phone 8 in key markets worldwide

    On June 26, Telefónica announced an arrangement that puts additional marketing muscle behind Windows Phone 8 devices in the U.K., Germany, Spain, Mexico, Brazil and Chile. The enhanced marketing effort, in cooperation with Microsoft, aims to boost sales of Windows Phone 8 devices and offer a strong alternative for customers.

    “Telefónica, through its Global Devices area, and in collaboration with all its business units, is firmly committed to enhancing its commercial offering mobile devices to encourage the presence of additional mobile operating platforms as an alternative to the current duopoly of Android and iOS, and provide customers with a more personal smartphone experience like Windows Phone offers,” the company said in a press release.

  • Build 2013 Day Two recap: Windows Azure Mobile Service & Windows Azure Web Sites now available, new Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 apps and more


    At Day Two of the Build 2013 conference in San Francisco, Microsoft showed the thousands of developers in attendance (and thousands more online) the opportunity for creating new apps and services on the Windows platform.

    Server and Tools Business President Satya Nadella and Corporate Vice President of Developer Platform Evangelism Steve Guggenheimer both delivered keynotes focused on how commonality across the Windows platform enables developers of all types to build compelling apps and experiences spanning devices and services.

    Here’s a recap of the major news announced today:

    General Availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services and Windows Azure Web Sites. Mobile Services makes it fast and easy to create a mobile backend for every device. Mobile Services simplifies user authentication, push notification, server side data and business logic so you can get your mobile application in market fast. Mobile Services provides native SDKs for Windows Store, Windows Phone, Android, iOS and HTML5 as well as REST APIs. Starting today, Mobile Services is Generally Available (GA) in three tiers—Free, Standard and Premium. Windows Azure Web Sites is the fastest way to build, scale and manage business-grade Web applications. Windows Azure Web Sites is open and flexible with support for multiple languages and frameworks including ASP.NET, PHP, Node.JS and Python, multiple open-source applications including WordPress, Drupal and even multiple databases.  ASP.NET developers can easily create new or move existing websites to Windows Azure from directly inside Visual Studio. Read more about it over on the Windows Azure Blog.

  • Walgreens, Voxer, ABC News, MarketWatch and XFINITY TV Remote: 5 new must-have apps for Windows Phone

    “Look out – it’s an appalanche!” quipped Windows Phone blogger Michael Stroh about the five major apps that launched in the Windows Phone Store this morning. Here’s a look at all five new apps:

    The Walgreens app makes it easy to track and order refills for your prescriptions. Its Quick Prints feature also lets you send photos from your camera roll to a Walgreens of your choice, then pick up prints of them about an hour later. Download it here.

  • Bounty programs open for Windows 8.1 Preview and Internet Explorer 11 Preview

    Last week, we announced upcoming bounty programs for vulnerabilities and bugs in Windows 8.1 Preview and Internet Explorer 11 Preview. Well, the previews are out and the gates are open.

    According to the Microsoft Security Response Center, hackers, hunters and researchers from across the globe are invited to earn cash payouts on the following bounties:

    • Mitigation Bypass Bounty. Up to $100,000 for truly novel exploitation techniques against protections built into Windows 8.1 Preview.
    • BlueHat Bonus for Defense. Additionally, Microsoft will pay up to $50,000 for defensive ideas that accompany a qualifying Mitigation Bypass submission.
    • Internet Explorer 11 Preview Bug Bounty. Up to $11,000 for critical vulnerabilities that affect IE 11 Preview on Windows 8.1 Preview.
  • Closer look at the redesigned Xbox Music

    Wednesday at Build 2013 Microsoft previewed an all-new look and feel for Xbox Music. The redesigned app, which will launch later this year with Windows 8.1, features a navigation column with the core experiences music lovers access most.

  • Windows Phone ‘Summer Break’ is an offer app developers can’t refuse

    Windows Phone 8 customers are now downloading more than 200 million apps per month, and daily app revenue has more than doubled. Microsoft also announced on Wednesday that shipments of Windows Phone grew six times faster than the rest of the smartphone market over the past year. With this kind of momentum, you’re probably thinking, “how do I get a piece of that pie?” Good news: The Windows Phone Developer team announced the “$19 Summer Break” offer – a steep discount on the usual developer registration fee. If you’ve been thinking about joining the Windows App Developer program, go do it now.

  • Windows Azure’s Mobile Services and Web Sites cloud platforms are now widely available

    Today at Build 2013, Microsoft announced the general availability of Windows Azure Mobile Services, a platform that enables app developers to store data in the cloud, authenticate users and send push notifications for their Windows, Windows Phone, iOS and Android apps. Mobile Services is free until August 1, when three tiers of pricing will be introduced, and developers can sign up here for a trial today.

    Windows Azure Web Sites, a scalable platform for websites, is also now available to all developers. You can find pricing details for Web Sites here. “Windows Azure Web Sites is the fastest way to build, scale and manage business grade Web applications,” wrote Windows Azure GM Steven Martin in a blog post today.

  • New advertising SDK helps marketers target in-app ads more effectively within Windows 8

    The world got an exciting preview of Windows 8.1 from Microsoft’s Build conference yesterday, where execs showcased new opportunities for developers as well as consumers. Today at Build, Microsoft Advertising released a new Windows 8.1 Ad SDK that will help marketers get more mileage out of Windows 8’s in-app advertising offerings.