Category Archives: blog

Windows 8 to include phone calling capability?

I love it when puzzle pieces seems to just fall into place. If the three pieces I found yesterday were any indication then it looks as if some Windows 8 slates will actually have the capability to make and receive phone calls through the cellular network. Cue the giant Windows Phone jokes.

The first was inconspicuously displayed at a BUILD 2011 session on tiles and notifications. On a slide showing off all the different default layouts of tiles possible in Windows 8 with samples from built-in apps, a “Missed calls” tile lists a number of received calls.

The second, during a video demo by Windows Live via WinRumors, a detailed view of a contact in the “People” app gives the ability to call the person’s mobile along with email, SMS and chat. While there’s the possibility Windows Live calling is VOIP based, the mobile number would suggest otherwise.

Finally, Rafael Rivera who analyzed the system configuration of the Samsung developer preview slate handed out at BUILD with a fine tooth comb found an Option wireless chip for the WiFi, GPS and 3G capability also included telephonic voice capability. Notably the radio supports quad-band 2G and peta-band 3G.

Even though tablet devices with phone calling capabilities are usually ridiculed for being giant phones, I think the option of being able to contact friends and family through voice calls on any device with a microphone is a useful utility, even if it’s not the primary mobile device.

Of course this also paves the way for the Windows 8 kernel to pave the way for future versions of Windows Phone OS based on it.

NFC: Windows 8′s hidden connection to tags and devices

Near field communication is becoming more and more mainstream for embedded devices and it was inevitable it would come to Windows. Although it was rumored Windows Phone Mango would support NFC, it turns out Windows 8 have done it first and features quite an extensive API.

The Samsung developer preview slate handed out at BUILD 2011 contains a NFC chip from NXP, a company that supplies NFC to millions of credit cards and passports. Whilst this is one of the first PCs with NFC capability but certainly won’t be the last. Unfortunately NFC is not enabled in the current build of Windows 8 Developer Preview, but the hardware is ready and was demoed in private (above).

Windows 8 will sport APIs that will allow applications to launch URLs, launch applications, share links, initiate peering sessions for applications and games. Developers can also communicate via NFC, but it’s not recommended because the bandwidth is extremely limited.

The major benefit of NFC over WiFi Direct or Bluetooth LE connectivity is the fact that the other device can be passive (no power source, a business card) and does not require configuration. One tap is all it takes to make a connection and initiate data transfer.

As the Samsung developer slate is a prototype device, it requires the devices to physically touch which is not a real-world requirement (devices can be up to 8cm apart). Whilst Microsoft will be engaging with OEMs on exact hardware specifications, it’s not clear at this stage whether NFC will be a required component of all Windows 8 slates.

Windows 8 tip: enabling demo-like touch feedback

If you’ve tuned into any of the keynotes or sessions at Microsoft’s BUILD 2011 conference you might have noticed the black dots that appear on screen to indicate where the presenter’s fingers are. Previously thought to be a secret registry key, it turns out it’s actually an option that anyone enable.

Thanks to a heads up from Paul Thurrott, the setting to enable this is under the classic “Control Panel”, in Touch settings, Touch tab and the option “Optimize visual feedback for projection to an external monitor”.

Personally I actually prefer these black dots over the default and much more subtle touch dots and trails. The fact that they’re still transparent means content is still visible underneath, but it provides a much stronger indication of which fingers are sensed and how accurate it is. When I get a Windows 8 slate, I’d love to try to see if I can use this always on.

Windows Simulator lets you touch Windows 8 using just a mouse

For those of us without a touch slate or Tablet PC, it’s now at least possible to try some of the touch features of Windows 8 by just using a mouse.

Bundled with the Windows 8 Developer Preview, the Windows Simulator might look similar but is much more advanced than the Windows Phone Emulator. It can be launched through Visual Studio or directly with “\Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Microsoft Shared\Windows Simulator\Microsoft.Windows.Simulator.exe“.

Although the content is just a loopback remote desktop session (I wonder if you can do simulator inception), the application allows the simulation of several touch features including single touch, zoom gestures and the rotation gesture. It also simulates rotation and different screen sizes and resolutions for high DPI application testing.

Obviously it’s nothing like the real thing, but at least something is better than nothing.

Design considerations for Windows 8 on HD slates

As Jensen Harris of the Windows User Experience team alluded to in his first day session of Metro design in Windows 8, high DPI displays may soon become mainstream, some of which he has personally seen behind closed doors.

To make sure Windows 8 looks great on these displays for the desktop and slates, the system will have native scaling support for Metro-style applications to take advantage of them.

The MSDN documentation “Guidelines for scaling” clarifies that although Windows 8 will automatically scale the user interface elements, layout and images, developers and designers (mostly designers) will still have to put in some work to ensure their applications are pixel perfect even at 208 PPI and beyond.

The first, most obvious and easiest is to use vector graphics in the application. The next best actually involves some automagicness from WinRT that automatically selects the most appropriate graphics resources from a generic file & folder naming convention.

Option #1 - File naming convention:
...\foo.scale-100.jpg
   \foo.scale-140.jpg
   \foo.scale-180.jpg

Option #2 - Folder naming convention:
...\scale-100\foo.jpg
   \scale-140\foo.jpg
   \scale-180\foo.jpg

Obviously some effort is involved to manage and save resources at multiple DPIs, not having to manually declare each one is a nice consideration for WinRT development.

Windows Store to provide 70/30% revenue share, 5 PC user license (update: maybe)

Update 2: Microsoft has since removed the reference to the revenue share structure of the Windows Store suggesting it is yet to be locked down.

At the BUILD 2011 conference, Microsoft has been unusually reluctant to confirm details of the revenue share in the application store in Windows 8 known as the Windows Store. Thankfully their developer documentation is far more helpful to confirm the industry-standard 70/30 split.

In the MSDN documentation for “Primer for current Windows developers“, it indicates Windows developers, like their Windows Phone developer brothers, will have to pay an annual registration fee which grants them a 70% commission on their work.

Following industry norms, developers pay a nominal yearly fee to upload apps to the Store, and receive 70% of the gross income from those apps (for paid apps and in-app purchases that use the default commerce engine). With this basic cost structure, the Store has many benefits…

Considering this is consistent with the Mac App Store for the desktop, the split shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. As a Windows “developer” who has had experience with the pain of acquiring a code signing certificate, setting up a web purchase page that integrates with a payment processing service and implementing a license system, 30% is a cost worth paying.

In addition, it is anticipated applications that only list through the Windows Store (legacy non-Metro Style apps), Microsoft will not charge any fees for the listing. Having said that, one can assume a developer account with the registration fee is probably required.

Update: It appears there is also a 5 PC license activation for customers who purchase applications, which too is industry-standard.

Any customer who pays for an app can install and use that app on up to 5 Windows Developer Preview devices, so that the app can engage that customer across a range of form factors.