In a blog post today, Microsoft announced a 'Phone Companion' app built into Windows 10 (which is coming out this summer) to easily transfer content (like documents and photos) to Android and iOS devices.
They also revealed that Cortana, the company's voice assistant, will be released on iPhone “later this year”.
The Cortana app can do most of the things Cortana does on your PC or on a Windows phone. You can have Cortana remind you to pick up milk the next time you’re at the grocery store, and then your phone will wake up and buzz with the reminder. You’ll be able to track a flight using Cortana on both your phone and your PC, and get the updates on the device that you’re on so you don’t miss anything. Everything in Cortana’s Notebook will show up across all your devices and any changes you make on one device will be reflected when you use Cortana on any of your other devices. The Cortana companion app will help you complete tasks you begin on your PC wherever you are, on your phone.
Microsoft already notes that, due to limitations on iOS and Android, they won't be able to port features such as launching apps and voice activation with “Hey Cortana”. Like other big companies, Microsoft has built a solid ecosystem of apps on the App Store, and it'll be interesting to see how limited Cortana will be as an iPhone app and how it'll compare to future versions of Siri and Google Now.
Until now, Ive’s job title has been Senior Vice President of Design. But I can reveal that he has just been promoted and is now Apple’s Chief Design Officer. It is therefore an especially exciting time for him.
Inside the fabled design studio (cloths over the long tables hiding the exciting new prototypes from prying eyes like mine) Jony has two people with him. They too have been promoted as part of Ive’s new role.
In a profile at The Telegraph, Stephen Fry reveals Jony Ive's new role at Apple. Richard Howarth and Alan Dye (both profiled by Wired and The New Yorker earlier this year in their Apple Watch coverage) will report to Jony Ive and become VPs of Industrial Design and Human Interface, respectively. According to an internal memo published by 9to5Mac, the change will be effective starting July 1.
Later in the profile, Stephen Fry asked Ive about his new role:
When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”
“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”
“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”
Ive is currently overseeing the design of future Apple retail stores and Apple Campus 2 on top of his existing duties in the Industrial Design and Human Interface groups. It'll be interesting to see what this leadership change will mean for Ive's participation in new Apple products going forward and if the role of Marc Newson (who joined Apple last year) will be altered as well.
This week Federico shares a personal story about Dragon Ball, before going on to talk about Lifeline, Mario Kart and Puzzle and Dragons with Myke.
On this week's Virtual, I continue to cover Lifeline and reminisce about the good old days of Dragon Ball videogames (the 3D game I mention on the show was called Final Bout). You can listen here.
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Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.
John Gruber has a good analysis of the Apple Watch interaction model and the differences between the watch face and the app screen.
I've been reading a lot of comments on the Watch OS hierarchy and I've (obviously) been using my Apple Watch as much as possible for a variety of tasks and scenarios.
The more I read and try, the more I don't understand the criticism of those who claim Apple Watch should work like an iPhone. Yes, the multiple functions of the Digital Crown can be confusing initially, and I imagine that eventually there will be settings to customize what the side button does. But to argue that clicking the Digital Crown should always go back to the watch face seems shortsighted to me. There's a benefit in having an easy way to open/go back to the app screen to quickly do stuff with apps, and it will be even more obvious once a native SDK and faster apps become available.
To celebrate the Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Apple has launched a section on the App Store highlighting apps that implement accessible features and technologies (via Steven Aquino).
The section is available here and it includes apps such as Instapaper (which offers text-to-speech and a font for dyslexic readers), Workflow, and Overcast.
I don't usually write about rumors, but the latest report from Mark Gurman on dual-app viewing mode possibly coming to iPad with iOS 9 is too exciting for me to resist a link.
Sources now say that Apple plans to show off the side-by-side feature for iOS 9 using currently available iPad models. The latest plans suggest that the split-screen mode will support ½, 1/3, and 2/3 views depending on the apps. When split, the screen can either display two different apps side-by-side, or multiple views of the same app. This would enable iPad users to see two separate Safari tabs, or compare a pair of Pages documents at the same time. Sources are quick to warn, however, that the feature could still be pulled before next month’s conference, as additional polish would be needed to bring it to the same level as other features that will be making their way into the first iOS 9 beta next month
A new multitasking experience for iPad was one of my big wishes for iOS 9. I had, however, many questions and doubts about the implementation of flexible split-screen on the current generation of iPads. Here's what I wrote:
My issue with requesting a new multitasking experience is that I don't know if it would be possible to make one that doesn't put too much stress on the user. I think that I'd like the ability to see parts of two apps at once, but what if there simply isn't a way to make that work well? What happens when you bring up two apps that require keyboard input – how do you understand which app you're typing into if you have one keyboard and two apps? Can two apps receive touch input simultaneously? Can you open two camera apps at once? What about audio output? I'm not sure why anyone would want to do that, but, in theory, should you be able to run two games at the same time? Would this new mode only work in landscape?
Gurman's report doesn't have any details on how this mode would actually work. How would you activate a second app – with a gesture or a special menu inside apps? Will developers get new tools to optimize their apps for new iPad layouts? Will apps be able to invoke specific apps programmatically (could it be this 'app links' API mentioned in the WebKit source code)?
As I concluded last month, the iPad needs new multitasking features. I'm curious to see what Apple does.
Ben Thompson, writing about Apple Watch and Siri:
Moreover, the Watch may even help Apple to rival Google when it comes to Siri and the cloud: the best way to improve a service like Siri is to have millions of customers using it constantly, and I for one have used Siri more in the last two weeks than I have the last two years. Multiply that by millions of Watch users and you have the ingredients for a rapidly improving service. Perhaps more importantly, the fact that Siri is critical to the Watch’s success in a way it isn’t to the iPhone’s may finally properly align Apple’s incentives around improving its cloud services.
Apple has been improving Siri both in terms of speech recognition and load times considerably over the past two years (they're now at the third generation of Siri). I'm finding the wrist to be a better activation point for Siri – raising your wrist to talk to a watch like a spy somewhat feels more natural than staring at a phone and speaking into it (although that may come down to cultural heritage and personal taste).
As I wrote in my iOS 9 wishes, faster interactions with all Watch apps (Apple and third-party ones) could be possible with a Siri API. I'm curious to see how Apple Watch will shape Siri's future.
This week the Europeans are joined by Sam Soffes to follow up on Redacted for Mac, before discussing Federico's thoughts on the Apple Watch.
If you're curious to hear my first impressions about the Apple Watch after six days with the device, this week's Connected is the episode you're looking for. You can listen here.
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This week Federico and Myke discuss Oculus Rift hardware requirements, Pokemon characters in Minecraft, the Volume level editor, Lifeline for iOS, and the Mario Kart 8 DLC.
Plenty of links in last week's episode of Virtual. I'll have more about the interesting Lifeline soon. You can listen here.
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