Posts Tagged ‘windows10’



Master Chief Meets Cortana

The renowned SPARTAN hero of the Halo franchise, Master Chief, meets his AI companion Cortana, who will be a helpful ASSISTANT and guide to him in a variety of situations and environments.

A World of Change

Project Spartan Browser 2

This is the Cortana enhanced Project Spartan Browser running on Windows 10 on both the Phone and Desktop. Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant will assist users contextually based on what she sees on the webpage and what the user has allowed her to know about them.

Last week, on Wednesday January 21st, 2015 Microsoft introduced to the world a host of new products that have breathed life into a company that to many was going kind of stale. Think IBM. A powerful industry leading behemoth yes, but consumer friendly, desirable, cool (with the exception of Xbox) not so much. But with a brand spanking new Operating System in Windows 10 that brings literally every form factor, from the smallest of IoT (internet of things) devices, to the Perceptive Pixel project, sensor laden, 84 inch, 4K Display, multi-touch, communication cradle – the Surface Hub – and every PC, tablet, hybrid and phone in between, under the same all-encompassing Windows 10 umbrella Microsoft is pioneering a new path. Other announcements of course included a free upgrade to Windows 10 for all Windows 7 and up users within the first year of the OSs release. We also got a peek at Cortana on the desktop. The showstopper was of course Microsoft’s ushering in of the era of holographic computing with HoloLens; a standalone head-borne wearable computer that brings the digital world into the real world. All of these things are news worthy and great moves by the tech giant. But we want to talk about Project Spartan, Microsoft’s new, streamlined, innovative web browser with the integrated personal digital assistant – Cortana.

What Makes Spartan Different

Project Spartan Browser

Project Spartan is the only Browser with an integrated PERSONAL digital assistant. Spartan is the only browser that allows users to annotate web pages, save those edited pages and share them with others.

First and foremost the Project Spartan Browser is a departure from the legacy and much maligned Internet Explorer. Microsoft went back to the drawing board and designed Spartan from the core outward endowing it with a new rendering engine which is a true advancement beyond what Internet Explorer brought to the table.

The Spartan browser, as one of the definitions of the word “spartan” suggests is also streamlined – lightweight – laying aside the visual weight of chrome as well to coincide with its lighter and more efficient movements across the web.

Aside from the “physical” enhancements, the project Spartan Browser has some functional enhancements that puts it in true fighting form making it a strong contender, if not superior specimen, in the mobile browsing space. With a unique inking feature which allows users to annotate Web pages and save those edited pages to OneNote for easy sharing with friends, family, co-workers, business partners etc. – the Project Spartan Browser stands out as an elite warrior in the browser wars. Both its rivals Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari lack such an advanced feature.

The Spartan Browser also has a reading mode that strips away the visual frills that adorn many web-pages much like Halo’s Spartans were stripped of the encumbering limitations other humans endure or how Leonidas and his faithful 300 bore only what was necessary to be effective in battle. Reading mode streamlines a webpage for easy reading.

The best part, and the point in this discourse for which many of you have been patiently waiting is The Project Spartans Browsers integration with Microsoft’s/Halo’s very popular Digital Assistant/AI. Cortana is an ever present companion to the Spartan internet surfer. She recognizes the content of web pages, provides useful information such as directions to a venue a user may be viewing on a page. She draws on information she knows about the user from other contexts (i.e. windows phone –notebook) and incorporates that knowledge with what she “sees” the user viewing on the Web. She may offer flight information for a user who may be tracking say his wife’s flight when she sees he’s looking for a venue in the area of the airport she is to arrive in. Yes, this is Cortana as an essential and integrated part of the Project Spartan browser. Any Halo or Windows Phone fan, or even just someone who loves a good story will tell you – Cortana and Spartan, well they go together like Peanut Butter and Jelly. They’re just better together. Listen up Chief.

Once Upon a Time


The world was introduced to Cortana on Windows Phone in early April of 2014. Days later on April 14, 2014 eager Windows Phone enthusiasts with the Preview for Developers installed on their devices downloaded Cortana for the first time with the Windows Phone 8.1 update. Things haven’t been the same since.

Eager Windows Phone Fans around the globe whose regions were not part of the initial release clamored (and some continue to clamor) impatiently on social media asking “When will we get Cortana?” Microsoft employees like Joe Belfiore (who runs the team doing Windows Phone/Tablet/PC Product Definition and Design) and Marcus Ash(Group Program Manager for Cortana on Windows Phone) attempted to mitigate the storm the popularity of this Halo Artificial Intelligence companion to Master Chief, turned digital assistant to Windows Phone, users had ignited. Even popular tech Journalists Mary Jo Foley (@maryJoFoley) and Paul Thurrott (@thurrott) acted as buffers, mediators even – between Microsoft and a fan base who desperately wanted/want the digital assistant.

WP8.1 Cortana maxresdefault_jpg

Why was she so popular? What was the big deal? Why didn’t Siri and Google Now, with much larger user bases ignite such an emotional response from their users? The short answer is that neither of those digital assistants exists outside of the OS platform of which it is a part and from which they originated. Cortana is a loved character who was birthed from the blockbuster Halo franchise about 15 years ago. During that time she has been the companion to tens of millions of gamers as they, as Master Chief, heeded her warnings, trusted her advice and [SPOILER ALERT] watched her die at the end of the fourth installment of the Halo series. Cortana was known to many and connected to them in the way game characters, no story characters, connect to participants of stories who vicariously live in the world of the character for a brief escape from the mundane pressures of life.

Cotana info Cotana Gesture

Microsoft was now bringing that beloved character, alive and well, into our world. Actually fans demanded it. When the codename Cortana, (yes it was just an internal codename much like Project Spartan is for Microsoft’s new browser), leaked to the masses – a firestorm of support was ignited pleading with Microsoft to retain the name Cortana for their new and capable digital assistant. The Redmond company, in what is increasingly evident of their new way of business – heard the voice of their base – their avid supporters – and complied. The name has been a tremendous hit ever since and no one, not even the Redmond giant, has looked back. As a matter of fact Microsoft recently ran a story on our favorite AI digital assistant as it’s featured “person” in a Story: The Smartest AI in the Universe is More Human Than You Think. This looks to be a company who is seeing the power of merging the success of a brand that resonates with the masses, by injecting a theme into a set of products and services that even non-gamers can understand (I have never played Halo and have never owned an Xbox -True story.) – and generate a halo effect.

De Ja Vu All Over Again

Project Spartan Browser 2

Spartan Browser – Streamlined, powerful, efficient lightweight and enhanced with AI companion Cortana.

Now here we sit at the cross roads. Microsoft is launching, like their ground breaking World’s Most Personal Digital Assistant Cortana – a ground breaking new browser with said World’s Most Personal Digital Assistant thoroughly integrated therein. Joe Belfiore was clear during the Windows 10 presentation that the browser which we have all been calling Spartan, is actually the product of what is dubbed Project Spartan. In essence, this aptly code named Cortana enhanced browser is nameless. Well at least it is to Microsoft and to most of the world. However, as with Cortana the fans have spoken. We like Spartan.

Master Chief John-177(Halo) Vs Captain Titus (Warhammer 40K)

Spartan (Halo) – Streamlined, powerful, efficient lightweight and enhanced with AI companion Cortana.

Windows Central recently published an article which indicates that names such as:

  • Entourage
  • Elixa
  • Evo
  • Evex
  • Endeavor
  • Edge

are apparently on the table which would effectively sever Cortana’s symbolic symbiosis with the browser. Though not functionally altering the browser a larger theme that Microsoft has already begun and invested in (materially and psychologically with the market at large) with peppering Cortana with Halo themed characteristics via the choice of Jen Taylor, (the voice of the AI from the lauded Halo games), Halo references in Cortana’s jokes and responses and finally some elements of her personality which were translated from the game, will be abruptly severed as that same theme has now transitioned to the Cortana enhanced (via it’s name and AI integration) Project Spartan Browser, if a name other than Spartan is chosen at this point. Via the pre-event leaks, the January 21st event itself and post event videos of the product by Microsoft themselves, the profuse and persistently positive coverage by bloggers, vloggers, journalist’s and the media at large – the marketing for Microsoft’s marvelous new browser has already begun under the widely accepted and appropriately efficient moniker – Spartan.

Why Spartan – What’s in a Name?

Cortana CoupleMarcus RT Me and Kristie Hero Feature

I was hoping that the Spartan name would be under very serious consideration by Microsoft. I think that it is a very appropriate moniker.

Spartan Don't Change the Name

One, the name itself conveys the sleek, “spartan”, efficient nature of the browser. This is an appropriate association when considering Spartan in relation to the Greek soldiers who were efficient warriors in battle, sparsely armed and lightly garbed for efficient movement, but extraordinarily effective rivals against any foe. This browser is that. Streamlined and under the hood, very powerful – and apparently quite an effective competitor against rivals Chrome and Safari.

Don't Change the name(1)

Naturally the more appropriate association is Spartan in relation to Halo. Spartans were deliberately engineered from their core, their very DNA, to be natural warriors, and more. This browser was engineered from the core outward to be a powerful mobile browser that does more than the competition.

Don't Change the Name

Second. Naturally what was on the inside of the Spartan was not all that comprised who/what he was but his armor, with the integrated AI was a key symbiosis to the identity of every Spartan. With Cortana integration in the Project Spartan browser the parallels are too blatant to miss. What better name for the ONLY browser with an integrated personal digital assistant that gets to know you and recognizes the webpages you surf and offers relevant support than “Spartan” which echoes Halo’s Spartans with integrated AI’s that recognizes the environments the Spartan is in and offers relevant support.

Cortana, Cortana app, Cortana for Windows Phone 8 Project Spartan Browser 2

Finally, Microsoft is converging it’s ecosystem, Cortana is already one of the most recognized names that has transitioned from what was the company’s only “cool” product – Xbox, a product that people choose to use not have to use (HoloLens and changes coming with Windows 10 may change that). Cortana is not only accepted but clamored for. Spartan is, in my opinion, a natural name for a browser that is seeking to claim territory in the mobile space with its integrated digital assistant. Whatever avenues were utilized to rally individuals to make the voices of the masses heard to get Cortana’s name to stick for Microsoft’s personal assistant must, I contend, be employed. I think Microsoft needs to hear the voice of the masses again. If they’re looking for a name for their sleek, powerful AI integrated browser, I think I echo the voices of the majority of Microsoft’s enthusiastic and vocal supporters – We are Sp….I mean Spartan it is!


“While [Windows 10] will give developers the unprecedented ability to develop apps that work on PCs, tablets, and smartphones with a single application development effort, it does not show enough potential for a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and consumers away from iOS and Android,” Gillett said.



Ok. Here we are. It’s January 21, 2015. Big day. Huge Day. Well it is to Microsoft anyway; and to a horde of tech enthusiasts, investors and maybe even to Microsoft rivals like Apple and Google. To the regular Joe or Jane consumer, like my wife who had no idea of the significance of this day (seems this Windows Fan has work to do), the ramifications of what Microsoft presents today may not hit them until the product is in their hands, or on their desks, or in their internet connected devices. We’re talking about Windows 10 of course; Microsoft’s reimagining of Windows that will run across a family of devices from desktops, tablets, phones and Internet of Things devices. Yeah it’s a big deal, and interested or not, what Microsoft introduces to its 1.5 billion personal computer install base matters. Really matters.

What You Know


If you’re reading this you’ve likely had an opportunity to read a deluge of articles leading up to today with titles like “What to Expect in Windows 10” or “Windows 10: Microsoft’s Last Chance to Make Windows Relevant.” And if you’re a news hound like myself you’ll probably be sniffing those articles out up until the 9am PST/12pm EST time of the announcement and live stream. Thus you are all probably well versed on “what to expect”. You know things like

    • Cortana, our favorite personal assistant making her desktop/tablet debut replacing search on the PC. Hopefully this also translates to some really magical interaction with Cortana across devices.
    • Spartan, the aptly named light weight, Cortana enhanced browser that seeks to take on Mobile powerhouses like Chrome and Safari.
    • Enhanced by DirectX 12, PC Gaming will apparently be aligned closer to Microsoft’s popular and cool Xbox Gaming.
    • A Single Code and Single Store will unify Windows across form factors providing developers with the tools to “write once” for various devices. Additionally With a single Store app purchases/downloads for consumers becomes a much simpler and efficient affair.
  • Continuum: Windows 10’s ability to “recognize” the type of device it’s on and conform accordingly to a desktop environment when a keyboard is detected, or launch into the finger friendly, Live Tile Start Screen, when in tablet mode. (I believe there is a prompt that requires user confirmation.) Continuum is also the cohesive experience of a user across devices; where “activity” exists in that ephemeral space between devices.
  • Windows Phone and Windows RT joining forces. Yes small tablets and phone will run the same version of Windows. This in my view gives a great opportunity to make Windows (Phone) a much more powerful device.

So there you have it. These are most of the highlights of what we’ve all read we should expect. So I’m not going to waste your time with echoing what you already know. Instead I’d like to venture down another path. A road less travelled if you will. Frank Gillett, an analyst for Forrester Research had this to say about Windows 10:

  “While [Windows 10] will give developers the unprecedented ability to develop apps that work on PCs, tablets, and smartphones with a single application development effort, it does not show enough potential for a differentiated mobile experience that will draw developers and consumers away from iOS and Android,” Gillett said.

What Windows 10 Won’t Do

Apple Tim Comm Android

Yep. Windows 10‘s unified front may indeed draw developers in to cater to Microsoft’s tremendous PC user base in time. But if the only achievement is that now the slow moving underdog finally has the app selection the entrenched rivals with committed and locked in users has then there may be little appeal for iOS and Android users to switch given that they can already do on their devices what Microsoft will be finally be making available for them to do on theirs.

See here’s the thing. Most people are not really that invested in their OS. You know the general public. Not we tech folks who can rattle off specs and features at a drop of a hat. You know people like your mom, grandmother, pastor, kid, spouse – frankly anyone who is not a tech head. What the regular smartphone user cares about, is can this device do what I want it to do? That normally then translates into does it have the apps that perform the functions I need it to perform to help me accomplish the tasks I need to accomplish? The answer for about 97% of the smartphone market, about 90% android users and 17% iOS users is yes, my Android device and iPhone does exactly what I need it to do.

Add to that Apple’s proclivity for locking users in via proprietary hardware, accessories and software snares. And androids ubiquity which engenders support from a myriad of third party accessory OEMs and developers, that 97% of the market has a significant portion of that audience significantly locked in.

Ouch. That’s painful news for Microsoft and Windows fans who want to see life flow into the Live Tile adorned OS. Hmmmmm. And that may actually be the key. Live Tiles that is.

Live Tiles

wp_ss_20140806_0002 Spiderman Background wp_ss_20140624_0001

You see, at this point in the mobile era we have all become quite accustomed to apps. You download them to your device, tap the icon and voila the app opens and away you go using and interacting with the app and the content or people it gives you access to. Yaaaaawwwnnn. That’s so 2009. Microsoft in 2010 took another approach when it introduced Windows 7. Live Tiles.

Live Tiles take the best of an icon (unobtrusive) and widget (alive and able to be interacted with) to create a User Interface that provides users with access to content within the app without having to tap, open and use the app. The information you desire is right there on the Start screen in many cases. “Glance and Go” was Microsoft’s early Windows 7 tagline.

So what does this have to do with Windows 10 and the potential to grab some of those 97% iOS and android users? Live Tiles have been flipping and displaying information since 2010 and few consumers have barely even glanced.

Well the market in many developed countries is saturated with smartphones. That is to say, virtually everyone has one, is accustomed to them and is used to the, uh, archaic way we interact with apps. Download an app, place a “dead” icon on the start screen, tap it , it opens, we use it. Yes that model, anyone with a smidgeon of imagination knows must eventually change. I submit Microsoft’s Next Chapter is a good time.

Interactive Live Tiles

Before I proceed I’d like to acknowledge what some of you may have already considered. Android’s widgets. Yes android has interactive widgets, but not every app can be a widget and widgets don’t present the seamless unobtrusive flow of apps across a Start screen like Live Tiles do.

Now imagine a model where users can see and interact with content, data and people without launching an app. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Progressive even. Maybe even the next evolution in mobile computing. Microsoft Live Tiles, more than iOS’s static icons and androids widgets are positioned for this next step in the mobile user experience.

We have been introduced to this concept which Microsoft has apparently been tinkering with, that was to launch in the now defunct (or delayed) McLaren. Exploding tiles, where a user hovers their finger over a tile to initiate an “explosion” of smaller tiles from the main tile, each of which contains some content or means to interact with the app without launching it. Phenomenal! Alas, the McLaren did not launch accompanied with Microsoft’s claim that it was not prepared. The exploding tile implementation too was delayed. Delayed not canceled.

Reports emerged that that concept may still see the light of day, howbeit not in the “touchless” iteration that was planned for the McLaren. If implemented now at this stage in the mobile war, it may not be groundbreaking in the planned ways touchless interaction would have introduced but it could be the groundbreaking game changer Microsoft needs to differentiate a user app experience on its platform.



Why switch to Windows if my iOS or Android device has the apps that allow me to do what I want it to do. Answer: Microsoft’s Interactive Live Tiles does it better. In developed nations we (right or wrong) often subscribe to the notion that bigger and faster and newer is better. It’s true. That’s why two years after the fulfillment of a carrier contract we are dumping perfectly good devices for the bigger, faster and newer device. We’ve been convinced it’s better. Now with ATT’s Next, Verizon’s Edge and T-Mobile’s Jump programs our desire for the newer and fresher iterations of our mobile computing devices is satiated even sooner. What am I saying? We like new. And if sold to us properly – we buy it.

The 97% of smartphone (android and iOS) users have been using a particular model of app interaction for almost eight (8) years now since the launch of the first iPhone in 2007, then the first android device shortly thereafter. That’s an eternity in computer years! Yes iOS refreshed its UI ridding the OS of those skeuomorphic designs. Android Lollipop has moved things along with Material Design making an aesthetically pleasing UI. But the way a user interacts with the data, content and connections via apps has remained unchanged for iOS and Android users. They’re still using a 2007 model!

Microsoft has an opportunity to evolve its Live Tile implementation to the next level of app interaction. Imagine pinning a Contact to the Start screen and via multiple exploding tiles choose to view either Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn updates. Or select a call option that presents itself as an exploding tile. Or having the ability to filter what is displayed on their main tile. Suppose you want to see all of their Facebook photos, or Twitter posts, or Linked Updates, or maybe just their text messages or WhatsApp messages to you. Live Tiles.

Imagine being able to swipe through messages on your message tile, or your photos on your photo tile. Imagine a photos hub that is reconnected to social networks. If there is someone you care about whose photo updates on Facebook, Flickr, Tumbler etc. you’d love to see cycle through your Photos tile, Live Tiles can be enhanced to provide this option.

Imagine controlling Music via exploding controls on the music tile or advancing tracks with a gesture on the tile. Imaging viewing or previewing video on the video tile. Or imagine cycling through YouTube videos of your YouTube subscriptions and preview selected videos on your YouTube (third party I know) tile. Imagine liking a Facebook post or retweeting a Tweet from a Live Tile. The possibilities of app interaction via interactive Live Tiles is vast. Extraordinarily vast.

Microsoft is establishing the necessary foundation with Windows 10 to get developers on board with a unified code and a single Store. Live Tiles is their unique weapon in this mobile war that will allow them to differentiate how users experience apps on mobile devices. No one has done that since 2007. If Microsoft embraces this challenge they will be giving developers a new and vast landscape to pioneer new app user experiences. Users can then be courted with new, faster and bigger ways to experience apps on their mobile devices. Microsoft’s job will be to show them how it is better. If they’re successful – we will buy it.

Visit the Following Sway:

“A Windows Phone’s Fans Lament and Praise of Windows Phone”

Microsoft Cortana, Ο ψηφιακός βοηθός έρχεται ___

Cortana: Microsofts Windows Hero Feature

There are some that would argue that the popularity and positive perception of Microsoft’s Cortana is a signal that Microsoft should allow Cortana to ride that wave over to iOS and Android to help disseminate Microsoft’s brand of services to an increasingly iOS and Android centric user base and to further establish Bing’s growth in search.

It is true that Microsoft desires to and is working diligently to expand Bing. To compete against Google who has spread its services across millions of iOS and Android devices, particularly Post-PC devices (smartphone and tablets) Microsoft needs to have Bing and its array of services in front of users as well.

Cortana is popular, and in essence she is Bing. In truth however Microsoft does not need to expand Cortana to competing platforms to put Bing (and other MS services) in front of the users of those platforms. Here’s why.

Microsoft has an install base of 1.5 Billion PC’s across the globe. That’s 1.5 billion PC’s in homes and running most enterprises on the planet. EVERYBODY “knows” Windows, and mostly everybody uses Windows. So how does MS get Bing in front of millions of users or its 1.5 billion users?

  1. Incorporate Bing Search into Windows OS. Yep, they did that in Windows 10. Right there on the start button. That incredibly familiar, highly desired little tool that is constantly accessed by Windows users who have been thoroughly trained over the decades to defer to that bottom left corner of the UI to perform most tasks now picks up the useful and seamless function of conducting both local and Bing powered internet searches. So as the hundreds of millions of PC users update to Windows 10, Bing searches will increase exponentially. Bing!
  2. OEM Partners & Dropped Licensing Fees. We are in the Post-PC era. Tablets and smartphones are the “new” personal computers (though a recent report shows a stabilizing of the decline in PCs).  So how does this help Microsoft? Well When MS dropped the licensing fees of their Windows OS (for devices under 9”) and also offered an affordable SKU of Windows with Bing guess what happened. They added 50 NEW OEM partners. Yes 50 new companies ready to build Windows devices. Bing!

What does that mean you ask? Well it means that holiday shopping season 2014 and the year of 2015 forward are going to look much different for Microsoft than 2012 and 2013 did in the tablet and smartphone space.

Actually take a look around now, you’ll find a slew of affordable tablets and Windows Phones being released by a number of OEMs right about now. Yes they’re running Windows. Yes they’re equipped with Microsoft services. Yes they’re being offered to the “next billion.” Yes at under $100-$300 these Windows tablets, phones, hybrids and two-in-ones will work hand in hand with Microsoft’s plan to get its OS and services in front of millions of users.

The Chromebook, which had low cost as it’s fundamental core advantage over Windows based alternatives, no longer has this cost advantage as OEMs are now building equally and even more affordable windows devices. The price factor in conjunction with other inherent benefits of Windows devices (like not requiring an internet connection to be useful) will make them a more tantalizing option to schools and businesses. Coupled with Windows based services highly affordable devices for consumers, schools and businesses will place Bing and other MS services in the hands of millions starting this holiday season. Bing!

3. Spotlight: Also let’s not forget that Bing not only powers Siri’s search for Apple products but Bing will also be handling Spotlight web-searches in OS X and iOS 8. More Bing; more Ka-Ching for Microsoft! See what I mean. Bing!

4. MSN: Finally, as many articles have pointed out lately Microsoft’s MSN network/services gets a lot of visitors each month. 400 Milliona lot”. Microsoft is a global corporation and 400 million people on this beautiful globe of ours simply love MSN. It’s so popular in fact that Microsoft has revamped the website and rebranded its host of “Bing” apps, Finance, Sports, Health etc. to MSN. So how does this help Bing and Microsoft you ask? Well these 400 million MSN lovers now only need sign on to the MSN site and they’re immediately tied into Bing, along with other MS services, preferences, favorites, interests (Cortana) etc. 400 million. Then of course you have users who are now drawn to the MSN brand that was somewhat forgotten in some regions. But in rebranding apps that were previously Bing labeled some users of those apps are led now to engage the MSN page, a very popular content portal. Thus they actively are beginning to engage MSN content and services and Bing!

So yes, Microsoft needs to get Bing and it’s other services out there in front of millions of users. And yes with Bing search baked into Windows 10 and targeted at its 1.5 billion install base, the millions of tablet/smartphone users that will be purchasing affordable tablets/hybrids/2-in-1’s and phones offered by new (and old) OEMs this holiday season forward, the increased Bing usage as iOS and OS X users using Bing via spotlight, and the 100’s of millions of MSN users who will sign in once and tie into MS services, favorites, interests, Cortana (on PC), Sports, News, Money etc., I think Microsoft has it covered. Added to the fact that Cortana will be part of Windows 10 upon release MS will be reaching hundreds of millions with her PC based services, and millions with Bing and their other products/services, as well as updated apps on iOS and Android that tie into MSN services/content without loosening its grip on, Cortana, their ecosystem (currently Windows Phone) hero feature. Bing!

“Hey I Want a Windows Phone! Cortana’s “Halo” Effect”