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Microsoft WPC 2013: Day 1 Round-up

WPC 2013 in Houston, TX started off with a hiss and a roar this morning…to the tune of a local marching band for the Vision Keynote! Spirits were high and people we eager to see what innovation Microsoft was set to bring in the coming year and they didn’t disappoint. Key themes presented by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer included Cloud, Big Data, Social and Mobility.

Cloud, Big Data, Social, and Mobility

From a cloud perspective, Microsoft is reinforcing their commitment to cloud offerings on AZURE for leading applications like Dynamics CRM 2013 (the official name!) and Office 365. Big Data is taking a hybrid of cloud or local data and combining it in unison with offerings like Bing Maps and Azure, another area Microsoft is pushing. Social interaction has been at the forefront of Microsoft’s acquisition path this past year with purchases of Skype and Yammer demonstrating their commitment  to weaving in a “social” presence in their products  – the focus continues on this in 2013.  Finally, from a Mobility standpoint Microsoft has been able to release a beautiful new Windows phone and introduce the world to the Surface tablet. Per Steve Ballmer’s comments – “If you haven’t looked at a Windows phone in a long while…look again!”

Other key highlights for me came in the form of Windows 8.1. This is the improved version of Windows 8, with hundreds of improvements that have arisen as a result of customer feedback. The preview version is available now with the FREE upgrade coming later in the year.  Not only does the Start button come back, but Microsoft revealed some brand new features which were seen by us for the first time today.

Windows 8.1 has a new feature by which you can view your images in a tile like library and then sort by color. For example, let’s say you only want to show images that are predominantly “green.” With the new color sorting option, you can specify this as a filter and only images that are green will show.  While I’m still figuring out a practical use for this, it was a neat thing to see in today’s presentations nonetheless. Another nice piece of functionality was the Handsfree App on a device such as the Surface. When in Handsfree mode, you can simply swipe your hand past the camera to initiate a page change or other action in the system. The Microsoft example in the KeyNote was using a tablet for cooking in the kitchen when you have messy hands and need to shift pages on a recipe. I can see this piece catching on especially since hovering functionality is now starting to emerge in Mobile phones (looking at you Blackberry). The last Windows 8.1 feature that blew me away was something Microsoft calls “Miracast”. Essentially your Surface becomes a completely cable- udio/Video streaming device to all your other Windows machines. The demo we saw was a full 1080p video stream wirelessly from a Surface to a Desktop and then onto another device. It was crisp, clear and looked very seamless!

Those were the highlights of the keynote for me – after a long 4 hours of showcase. However, he real highlights of my day came from Ruben Krippner and his team over at the Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2013 camp. There were a few great things revealed that are worthy of another blog post. Coming soon – stay tuned!

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