Home automation. Some love it, some hate it. With programmable thermostats, lighting, alarm systems, even yard irrigation able to be controlled by a computer, it’s becoming more commonplace. INSTEON, a major player in the home automation and lighting industry, has teamed with Microsoft to provide voice controls for their system via Cortana and the Windows Phone 8.1 handsets.
“The availability of voice interaction capabilities is a major development in the evolution of the home automation industry,” said Steven Guggenheimer, Corporate Vice President & Chief Evangelist for Microsoft. “In recent years, consumers have become increasingly accustomed to voice-activated commands on their smart phones. Bringing Microsoft Cortana voice interaction capabilities to the popular INSTEON line of products opens up a whole new world of connected home engagement and use cases that will enhance our lives.”
Siri was a great concept when it (she?) was released. However, people didn’t find that it worked as well as they thought it would. With very little improvement over the years, Siri has gotten stagnant. Microsoft & Nokia use that to their advantage in a couple new ads. Cortana looks more advanced and useful than Siri. But, marketing can be deceiving. How’s Siri work for you, if you still use it?
A French Microsoft executive has accidentally revealed that Windows 9 will be revealed next week at Microsoft’s big event on September 30th. While I think most of us already assumed that’s what the hoopla was all about, I guess now we have a somewhat more official (yet still not an official announcement) confirmation. Also, the name still might not stick – Windows 9, Windows Threshold, or just plain old Windows.
Although Microsoft is widely expected to reveal Windows 9 next week, the company is staying tight-lipped on its exact plans for the September 30 press event.
Unfortunately, Microsoft France President Alain Crozier didn’t get the memo. Speaking at a press event on Tuesday, Crozier said Microsoft would reveal “Windows 9” next week. His comments were first spotted by WPCentral, and TechCrunch confirmed that the translation from French was accurate.
First, Microsoft dropped Prometric in favor of Pearson Vue. Now, an announcement from Microsoft says that they now have online proctored exams using your webcam and microphone. The move back to Pearson Vue was excellent news, but this is pretty awesome as well. I do have a few questions about it that I am waiting for answers, but overall it sounds like an excellent way to take an exam when you are not near a testing center. Or, if you want to take the exam on your lunch break at work. Right now, only a few exams are available, but I’m sure that number will increase in the future. I think I’m about ready for a couple new certs!
You’ll be asked to empty your pockets while on camera, provide a close-up on your ears so you can prove you’re not wearing a Bluetooth earpiece, do a visual sweep of your desk and the room… all things you’d expect a proctor to check if they were there in the room with you. If you ensure that all of the requirements are met before you check in for your exam, the whole check-in process should only take about ten to fifteen minutes. If you have as many Bruce Springsteen posters on your office wall as I do, add another five minutes for the proctor to inspect them all for hidden notes.
Microsoft is planning an event to showcase Windows 9 on September 30th in San Francisco. The technical preview should be available soon after the event for people to check out. Should be interesting to see what Microsoft has in store for us other than UI changes.
Additional changes are expected to be pushed regularly to Windows Technical Preview users until the operating system is complete and ready for release next year. We understand Microsoft is planning more UI changes to the desktop, and a number of those improvements aren’t ready for the preview just yet.
The big news topic of the day is the purchase of Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, by Microsoft for $2.5B. Notch, the original creator, and several others are leaving the company with cash in hand. As awesome as the creation was, I think we all have a price. For Notch, it was $2B (per a December 2012 tweet). Looks like he got a big more out of Microsoft. I’m looking forward to what Microsoft brings to the Minecraft world (good or bad… could go either way).
As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He’ll continue to do cool stuff though. Don’t worry about that.
Here’s an interesting tidbit of information I learned today. Steve Ballmer wrote the text for the CTRL-ALT-DEL, seen by millions of people around the world, many times over the years. Interesting stuff from the older days of Microsoft and Windows 3.1.
During this time period, Steve Ballmer was head of the Systems Division, and he paid a visit to the Windows team to see what they were up to, as is the wont of many executives.¹ When they showed him the Ctrl+Alt+Del feature, he nodded thoughtfully and added, “This is nice, but I don’t like the text of the message. It doesn’t sound right to me.”
Another deal from Microsoft on it’s XBox One system. Buy the system, get a free game. I recommend one of the newer ones to maximize your buying power. Some, like Call of Duty: Ghosts, can be found for under $25 quite often.
Those expecting Windows 8.1 Update 2 in the coming weeks will be disappointed. However, Microsoft is bringing a few improvements next Tuesday for the August updates. So, they are clearing up some Windows 8.1 Update 2 speculation. However, I’m sure there will be some (true or not) speculation on if this is a move to bring Windows 9 to market sooner and leave the larger update for that, rather than a new, large update to Windows 8.1. Take that as completely BS that I just made up, and may or not be true.
With the above in mind, rather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of “Update Tuesday.” So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 “Update 2.”
OneNote team posted a funny video (parody?) of a popular song, but switched it up to be a bit more relevant to the Surface Pro 3 and OneNote. This came out last month, so many may have already watched it, but I just caught wind of it.