Microsoft unveils new Windows OS
In pre-release version, subject to change, Microsoft has announced their most anticipated product: Windows 10. The new version of the operating system has been rebuilt from the ground up, in an effort to keep up with customer and developers’ expectations.
Covering all of the new changes could take quite a while, but here are the top ten things you should know about Windows 10.
Windows 10 is hardware-indifferent (Continuum)
Windows 10 will operate across the board with one product. There is no need to download different versions for different devices. It will works regardless of whether you are using a PC, tablet, or mobile device. This again is thanks to the change the Microsoft developers made at the ground level.
Since it works on all devices, it will display the same across all devices, except for a few minor usability issues needed to take advantage of hardware-specific features. These exceptions should not effect the way a page looks and operates however. This is also being dubbed “Continuum.” Windows will be able to tell what mode your device is in and seamlessly switch the user interface accordingly. Should a manual switch be needed, you can do this from the Action Center.
Cortana: Microsoft’s Virtual Assistant
Cortana made her debut last year with the Windows Phone 8.1 and was well-received. Now, she’s being introduced to a winder audience via the Windows 10 desktop. Cortana can answer questions, initiate a web search, and perform various trigger functions, or at least that is the plan.
Currently, Cortana refers quite a few questions she receives to Bing, but future updates should help Cortana be able to do things like creating calendar entries, texts, and such, especially since Windows 10 is still in the early stages of developmental tweaking. Cortana for desktop resides in a taskbar box, where you can ask your questions or pop it out by addressing her directly with, “hi, Cortana.”
Spartan Debuts as an IE Alternative
We previously covered the Spartan release with excitement at seeing Microsoft offer something other than Internet Explorer in the way of browsing. The bad news is it seems like Microsoft is going to keep the little black cloud of browsers around, but they will not be relying on it as much. It will integrate with Cortana and offer features like distraction-free reading and grouped tabs.
Currently, IE is not an app, it’s part of the OS; by making Spartan an app, Microsoft would be able to update it more quickly, but would also run the risk of people not bothering to download it as Microsoft reportedly want to keep IE on Windows 10. Hopefully as plans progress and prototypes are tweaked, Spartan will become and integral part of Windows 10 and we can say bye-bye to IE, or at the very least have IE as the option rather an integral part of the OS.
Following in the steps of Apple and Google, Microsoft is finally making universal apps available to everyone. With Windows 10, you will be able to download an application on your phone and install it on your desktop or tablet in the blink of an eye. Buy your app once, and use it everywhere.
Xbox Live on Windows 10
Microsoft is upping their gaming ante, by bringing some of Xbox’s favorite features to Windows 10. This includes the ability to play Xbox Live content on the desktop, compete with other players online, record your game play and capture a screenshot of the action. This is a big plus for heavy gamers.
Photos in the Cloud
Microsoft is also upping their photo game: in Windows 10, the official Photos app will show photos stored on all your connected devices (a bit like the iOS camera roll). Simply take a picture with your phone and you’ll be able to see it immediately across all your Windows 10 devices. You can also use the Cloud with OneDrive and back everything up, seamlessly. .
As we’ve already reported, Microsoft is showing off it’s hybrid idea of merging virtual reality with real world experiences in form of the HoloLens headset. They allow you to see a virtual 3D environment and interact with it in by immersing yourself in your surroundings. You will be able to adjust prototypes with gestures, take designs for an actual test run and immerse yourself in a new environment before actually traveling there.
There isn’t a screen to touch or a mouse to click. Use gestures to create, shape, and size holograms. Use your eyes to navigate and explore and your voice to communicate with your apps. This enables you to interact with content and information in the most natural way possible. Pretty futuristic and the gestures are comparable to what Google Glass was going for with its design.
Surface Hub for Businesses
Microsoft announced their new solution for enterprise: the Surface Hub. Surface Hub is an 84-inch touch screen monitor designed to take center stage in your office. It comes complete with a full range of work-specific features; from making creating and sharing presentations, to built-in Skype integration everything is centered around the business user.
New Start Menu
The somewhat drastic changes to the Start menu were not quite what Windows fans expected. The Start menu cannot be re-sized, but you can maximize it. Sound confusing? Basically, the Start menu can become a Start screen by clicking a button and the change will be remembered when you click the Start button the next time.
The new Start menu/Start screen option is a way to please everyone, as some users prefer one over the other. Tiles are also handled differently: you can sort tiles into groups by dragging-and-dropping, as well as, rename and reposition.. You can also move and entire group of tiles by clicking the header of the tiles and dragging. The only way to add new tiles is from the Start menu.
Microsoft has decided to permanently disable Charms Bar for Desktop users in Windows 10. The Charms Bar will only show on touch-enabled devices in Windows 10. Desktops and laptop users will not see it in their Windows. In Windows 8, you can activate the bar by going to the top or bottom right corner of your desktop and the bar will open.
In Windows 10, Microsoft has removed that functionality and placed these Charms inside modern apps with a small drop down in the top left corner. Again, this is subject to change.
Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for all Windows 7 and Windows 8 users (allegedly). It should be noted, tech gurus have found Windows 10 does have a few more bugs than any other version, but this is to be expected since they are launching a whole host of new features. Hopefully, the majority of these bugs will be worked out before final release. A tentative release date has been set for the fall of this year, but as well all technology: plans can change.
Microsoft to become 3rd largest gaming company after Blizzard acquisition
(TECHNOLOGY) Microsoft will not be left behind in the Metaverse. The tech giant plans to fully acquire Activision Blizzard by 2023 for $68.7 billion cash.
Microsoft announced plans to acquire the video game publisher, Activision Blizzard, on January 18, 2022, in an all-cash transaction reported to be valued at $68.7 billion.
The deal gives the tech giant popular game franchises, such as World of Warcraft, Call of Duty, Overwatch, Diablo, and many more to add to its arsenal. This acquisition sets Microsoft up to be the third-largest gaming company by revenue. Microsoft expects the deal to close in the 2023 fiscal year (which begins in July of this calendar year) once the customary closing conditions have been completed along with the regulatory review and Activision Blizzard’s shareholder approval. Both Microsoft and Activision Blizzard’s board of directors have already approved the deal.
This deal comes in hot on the heels of an avalanche of issues surrounding sexual harassment where 37 employees have reportedly left Activision Blizzard according to this article on The Verge. Microsoft states that Bobby Kotick will continue to serve as CEO of Activision Blizzard, and he and his team will maintain their focus on driving efforts to further strengthen the company’s culture and accelerate business growth. Once the deal closes, the Activision Blizzard business will report to Phil Spencer, CEO, Microsoft Gaming.
Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, posted both Activision and Microsoft Gaming will continue to operate independently until the deal is complete with Activision Blizzard then all business will be reported to Spencer.
“Gaming is the most dynamic and exciting category in entertainment across all platforms today and will play a key role in the development of metaverse platforms,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and CEO, Microsoft. “We’re investing deeply in world-class content, community, and the cloud to usher in a new era of gaming that puts players and creators first and makes gaming safe, inclusive, and accessible to all.”
Maybe you noticed the not-so-subtle hint regarding the Metaverse by Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella, but it seems everyone is quick to mention to the public and or other companies listening that they are gearing up to bring their A-game to the Metaverse. Whatever that ends up being.
In the meantime, we can predict some of the possible changes to come from this buyout. Microsoft currently has Game Pass, their subscription-based model for Xbox, which recently hit 25 million subscribers. Now’s the time to sign up for the Game Pass subscription before prices go up to match the revamped gaming inventory. Microsoft could potentially lock down new releases and not deliver them on other platforms, i.e., PlayStation, giving them exclusivity and driving subscription sign-ups.
Whatever ends up happening, Microsoft is making big moves to not be left behind in the gaming world or the Metaverse.
Want to save snippets of a Zoom meeting? Listener makes it possible!
(TECHNOLOGY) Listener lets you screenshot or bookmark important sections of live meetings, as well as curate a playlist of snippets, to share or playback.
We live in a very computer-mediated world where the bulk of communication is done virtually. Many of us spend a great deal of time – whether for work or pleasure – on video calls connecting with people that we’re unable to meet with in person.
Zoom became the unofficial mascot for the pandemic and has shown no signs of going anywhere. So naturally, people are looking for ways to put this to even more of an advantage – like by creating messaging extensions to utilize in lieu of live meetings.
Now the folks behind Listener are getting in on the action by creating Listener for Zoom.
The new tool allows users to bookmark important moments of Zoom calls in real-time and easily turn long recordings into bite-sized video clips.
As founder Nishith Shah puts it, “Zoom meetings just got more productive!”
Listener allows users to do a myriad of things, including live bookmarking to create short video clips; ability to transcribe your entire meeting; edit video clips by using transcripts instead of struggling with video editing tools; share video highlights with your team; create playlists from video highlights across different Zoom meetings to tell powerful stories; use projects to organize your meetings and playlists.
Founders say that Listener is designed for pretty much anyone who uses Zoom. In early testing, the founders found that it is especially helpful for product managers and UX researchers who do customer interviews.
They also reported that early-stage founders have been using Listener to add powerful customer videos to their investor pitch decks. It is also helpful for recruiters and hiring managers who search transcripts across hundreds of hiring interviews to remember who said what and to pass on important clips to other people in the interview process.
The tool is also beneficial for teams and hiring, as customer success and sales teams create a knowledge base with Listener to train and onboard new employees. They also use it to pass on customer feedback to the product teams.
This could also be great for clipping video elements that are appropriate for social media use.
On January 11, 2022, Listener was awarded #3 Product of the Day on Product Hunt.
Listener for Zoom is free while in Beta. The tool works only with licensed (paid) Zoom accounts.
Job listings are popping up left and right, so what exactly *is* UX writing?
(EDITORIAL) While UX writing is not technically new, it is seemingly becoming more and more prevalent. The job titles are everywhere, so what is it?
The work of a UX writer is something you come across every day. Whether you’re hailing an Uber or browsing Spotify for that one Drake song, your overall user experience is affected by the words you read at each touchpoint.
A UX writer facilitates a smooth interaction between user and product at each of these touchpoints through carefully chosen words.
Some of the most common touchpoints these writers work on are interface copy, emails, and notifications. It doesn’t sound like the most thrilling stuff, but imagine using your favorite apps without all the thoughtful confirmation messages we take for granted. Take Eat24’s food delivery app, instead of a boring loading visual, users get a witty message like “smoking salmon” or “slurping noodles.”
Eat24’s app has UX writing that works because it’s engaging.
Xfinity’s mobile app provides a pleasant user experience by being intuitive. Shows that are available on your phone are clearly labeled under “Available Out of Home.” I’m bummed that Law & Order: SVU isn’t available, but thanks to thoughtful UX writing at least I knew that sad fact ahead of time.
Regardless of where you find these writer’s work, there are three traits an effective UX writer must-have. Excellent communication skills are a must. The ability to empathize with the user is on almost every job post. But from my own experience working with UX teams, I’d argue for the ability to advocate as the most important skill.
UX writers may have a very specialized mission, but they typically work within a greater user experience design team. In larger companies, some UX writers even work with a smaller team of fellow writers. Decisions aren’t made in isolation. You can be the wittiest writer, with a design decision based on obsessive user research, but if you can’t advocate for those decisions then what’s the point?
I mentioned several soft skills, but that doesn’t mean aspiring UX writers can’t benefit from developing a few specific tech skills. While the field doesn’t require a background in web development, UX writers often collaborate with engineering teams. Learning some basic web development principles such as responsive design can help writers create a better user experience across all devices. In a world of rapid prototyping, I’d also suggest learning a few prototyping apps. Several are free to try and super intuitive.
Now that the UX in front of the writer no longer intimidates you, go check out ADJ, The American Genius’ Facebook Group for Austin digital job seekers and employers. User-centric design isn’t going anywhere and with everyone getting into the automation game, you can expect even more opportunities in UX writing.
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