Category Archives: Microsoft

Brandon's List of AWESOME things from Microsoft in 2019

My List of Awesome Things from Microsoft in 2019

Over the holidays, I had a friend ask me about all the cool new stuff Microsoft announced and came out in 2019. I told him about all the things that stood out to me. This got me thinking about turning my own list into a blog post to share with others. I wrote a lot of this before New Years but never finished it. I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and finish the list, so I asked Twitter and everyone said I should finish it and publish it – so here it is!

First thing’s first… Yes, I do work at Microsoft. But this is my own personal list and I wasn’t asked by anyone at work to make it. But because I do work at Microsoft, when say “we”, I mean Microsoft. The list here represents my opinion and not Microsoft’s. This list is also not organized by any sort of priority – either for me or for Microsoft. And if I forgot to mention something cool, it is the direct result of a short circuit in my specific individual brain.

Microsoft in 2019

Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 November 2019 Update desktop with Start and Microsoft apps.
The Windows 10 November 2019 Update desktop with Start and Microsoft apps.

I’m a “Windows guy” so of course I’m going to start off with Windows first on my list. In 2019, we shipped two new feature updates for Windows 10. We shipped the Windows 10 May 2019 Update which contains a bunch of new features including Windows Sandbox and a OS-wide new light theme. We also shipped the Windows 10 November 2019 Update which was a different type of update than we had done previously. The November Update contained new features such as notification control improvements and a quick way to add events to your calendar straight from the clock flyout on your Windows taskbar!

We also celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the Windows Insider Program. Windows Insiders have contributed to a lot of improvements to Windows 10 over the last 5 years. Working in the Windows engineering org here at Microsoft and on the Windows Insider Program Team has been some of the best years of my professional career and I’m having a lot of fun. I am learning a lot and I am able to exert a lot of my passion and excitement for technology and overall nerdiness. I am equally excited for what’s next for the Windows Insider Program and for Windows 10!

The NEW Microsoft Edge

It was in late 2018 that we announced that Microsoft Edge would be moving to the open-source Chromium Project browser engine. But 2019 is where the Microsoft Edge Team kicked this move into high gear with the first new Edge Canary builds for Windows 10 PCs, first new Edge Canary builds for MacOS, and then the first Beta release for the new Edge. And in early November, we unveiled the logo for the new Microsoft Edge and our plans on how we’ll roll out the new Microsoft Edge to the world.

Animated GIF of old Microsoft Edge logo morphing into the new Microsoft Edge logo.

On January 15th, 2020, we officially released a stable version of the NEW Microsoft Edge! Curious as to how we’ll start the automatic rollout for the new Microsoft Edge? Read all the details here. You can also continue to try out Canary, Dev, and Beta versions of Microsoft Edge here from the Edge Insider site.

New Microsoft Hardware

We made a lot of new hardware announcements this year.

Last February, we announced the Microsoft HoloLens 2 at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The HoloLens 2 is shipping to customers right now. The HoloLens 2 more than doubles the field of view from HoloLens 1, while maintaining the industry-leading holographic density of 47 pixels per degree of sight.

A person wearing a HoloLens 2.
The new HoloLens 2.

The Azure Kinect Developer Kit was announced along with the HoloLens 2. It uses the same new time-of-flight depth sensor from the HoloLens 2, high-def RGB camera and a 7-microphone circular array. The Azure Kinect allows for development of advanced computer vision and speech technology. For developers who have been using the Xbox Kinect to develop solutions for things that sense the people and things around and listens audio should definitely give the Azure Kinect DK a look

The Surface Hub 2S.
The Surface Hub 2S.

Back in April, we announced more about the new Surface Hub 2s.

Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7, and Surface Pro X.
The new Surface 2019 line-up: Surface Laptop 3, Surface Pro 7, and Surface Pro X.

And in a small event in October in New York City, we announced the Surface Pro 7, Surface Pro X, and Surface Laptop 3. At that same event we also unveiled two new Surface devices coming in 2020 which I’ll talk about at the end of this post. I got to attend this event in New York and sit with fans of Microsoft, Surface and Windows 10 and their energy and excitement was so contagious that afterward I felt like I could fly to the moon. It was the first time attending a major Surface event for Microsoft and it was amazing. My current daily PC in the Surface Pro X.

Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay holds the Surface Neo at the Oct. 3rd Surface Event last year.
Microsoft Chief Product Officer Panos Panay holds the Surface Neo at the Oct. 3rd Surface Event last year.

From a PC accessory perspective – we announced and released a new version of the Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse.

Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse black and white models.

Eagle-eyed fans also noticed that many of our Microsoft Keyboard products were refreshed to include an emoji key and Office key too! I’m looking to pick up both the new Microsoft Pro IntelliMouse and updated Microsoft Bluetooth Keyboard from the Microsoft Store very soon.

The Xbox One S All-Digital-Edition

Announced back in April, the Xbox One S All-Digital-Edition offers disc-free gaming. This console doesn’t have a disc drive for any physical media. It’s a console that was created for gamers who prefer to find and play their games digitally and are looking for the most affordable way to play Xbox games. And it does 4K entertainment with movies and TV from the Microsoft Store, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and more. This console gets even better for gamers with Xbox Game Pass.

The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition.

The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2

We announced the second-generation Xbox Elite Wireless Controller in June and it hit stores in November. The Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 is the world’s most advanced controller and brings over 30 new ways to game. You can customize this controller to be exactly what you want it to be to help you game – whether it’s playing Halo or racing in Forza. I have the Series 2 controller and absolutely love it. I especially love that it has a built-in rechargeable battery that gets up to 40 hours of battery life per charge. And it also comes with a USB-C cable and charging dock, giving you multiple options for charging your controller. 

Gaming on Windows 10

It’s important for us to enable gamers to play together which means cross-platform play and cross-network play across Windows 10 PCs and console. But there are gamers who just game on PC. In 2019, we delivered a bunch of new things to make gaming on Windows 10 better.

We brought Xbox Game Pass to Windows 10 via a brand new Xbox app so PC gamers can enjoy all the benefits of Xbox Game Pass just like on the console. Xbox Game Pass for PC gives gamers unlimited access over 100 high-quality PC games on Windows 10. You can download the new Xbox app (Beta) for Windows 10 here from the Microsoft Store. And speaking of the Microsoft Store – we are enabling full support for native Win32 games to the Microsoft Store on Windows 10 too.

Brand new Xbox app for Windows 10 opens the door to Xbox Game Pass!
Brand new Xbox app for Windows 10 opens the door to Xbox Game Pass!

We introduced a completely updated/over-hauled Xbox Game Bar in Windows 10. Just by using the Windows key + G keyboard shortcut in Windows 10 gives you direct access to your Friends, Chat, Mixer, and Looking for Group (LFG) from Xbox Live. And you can share screenshots from your game to your social network on Xbox Live too or Twitter.

Updated Game Bar in Windows 10 - available using Windows key + G keyboard shortcut!
Updated Game Bar in Windows 10 – available using Windows key + G keyboard shortcut!

And we also released the Halo: Master Chief Collection for PC! Yes – you can play Halo on your PC!

One more thing… Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming back!

Screenshot of gameplay in the new Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Screenshot of gameplay in the new Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Project xCloud Public Preview

We announced Project xCloud in late 2018 and in 2019, we kicked off the Public Preview. Project xCloud allows you to play some of your favorite Xbox games on your phone powered by the cloud! I have been playing Halo on my OnePlus 7 Pro and its amazing. You can buy a clip for your Xbox Wireless Controller and clip it to your phone.

Project xCloud Preview: Play 50+ Xbox games on your phone or tablet.
Project xCloud Preview: Play 50+ Xbox games on your phone or tablet.

Additionally, we also started a preview for Xbox Console Streaming in 2019 too!

Evolving Microsoft Design

In late 2018, we announced we would be updating the icons in Microsoft Office. And in 2019, those updated icons showed up in the product. These new icons have hues that are bolder, lighter and friendlier but keeps the unique and identifiable symbol for each of the Office apps within the collective suite. Both our fans and customers have responded really well to these new icons for Office so we scaled up our icon design efforts to redesign over a hundred icons across the Microsoft ecosystem.

Updated icons with Fluent Design.
New Fluent Design icons for several Microsoft apps.

As part of this effort, we also unveiled a new icon to represent the new Chromium-based Microsoft Edge and the new Office Mobile app:

I love these icons. I love the design and I especially love the colors.

We also took a giant step forward in aligning the mobile experiences across all the Microsoft apps with a coherent design. This means bringing Fluent Design to our mobile apps across platforms – not just Windows.

Windows Terminal

For those who rely on command-line tools and shells like Command Prompt, PowerShell, and WSL, we introduced Windows Terminal at the Microsoft Build conference last year.

Windows Terminal brings all the command-line goodness you want into a single app with a tabbed user interface which can be customized to exactly how you want it. Windows Terminal uses a GPU accelerated DirectWrite/DirectX-based text rendering engine so the text looks amazing.

And we even developed a brand-new font for Windows Terminal – called Cascadia Code!

This is a visual example of the new Cascasdia Code font.

PowerToys for Windows 10

PowerToys for Windows is back!

At Microsoft Build in 2019, we announced we were bringing back PowerToys and we released the first set of these new PowerToys for Windows 10. PowerToys were popular back in the 90’s with Windows 95. The first release of the new PowerToys had two PowerToys: a Windows key shortcut guide and a window manager called FancyZones. The second release contained the PowerRename PowerToy. And more PowerToys are coming!

Your Phone

Your Phone had an incredible year of improvements. By linking your Android phone to your PC with Your Phone, you can access your text messages and photos, receive notifications from your phone on your PC, AND answer phone calls! And we also announced a partnership with Samsung that includes integrating Your Phone into their latest Galaxy Note 10 devices – including the feature of mirroring your phone screen on your PC!

Your Phone has received a lot of updates in 2019.

Azure Developer

My colleague and all-around super awesome Morgan M. Mitchell put together a series of blog posts in December highlighting all the Azure Developer announcements and releases we’ve had in 2019. If you’re a developer and coding anything using Azure – I highly recommend checking out her blog posts!

Coming from Microsoft in 2020

We have a lot of amazing new things coming in 2020 – especially Holiday 2020. At our October Surface event, we announced two new foldable Surface devices: Surface Neo and Surface Duo. The Surface Neo will run a new flavor of Windows 10 called Windows 10X that has been designed specifically for foldable devices.

And the Surface Duo will run Android.

In addition to those new devices, we also announced the brand-new Xbox Series X console that will be the fastest and most powerful gaming console.

And we’re finishing up the upcoming new feature update for Windows 10 (version 2004) that includes new features like Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2.0 and Virtual Desktop renaming.

So that’s my list – if you think I’ve forgotten something really awesome from Microsoft in 2019, let me know in the comments below or tweet at me!

What I want to do in 2019 (Better Adulting)

We’ve been having a significant “snow event” here in Seattle and it has given me some time to put down a blog post highlighting some of the big things I want to do and be better at in 2019 (aka be better at adulting).

These are the things I want to do this year:

I want to continue building my brand. Back in September, I blogged about building my personal brand. I want to continue that investment into 2019.

I want to continue being an advocate of diversity in technology. Back in September at Microsoft Ignite 2018, I took part in several Diversity and Technology sessions which really fired me to be a better advocate. I also spoke at an internal Microsoft event in Redmond put on by the Hispanic/Latinx Organization of Leaders in Action (HOLA) group. I want to continue to participate in these types of sessions and events. I passionately believe people with different backgrounds and experiences should be given equal opportunity to thrive in both their professional and personal lives and am incredibly proud of the work Microsoft is doing in this area.

Me at Microsoft Ignite 2018.

I’ve created a list of work projects by priority. Over the holidays, I took some time to reflect on how I work. I really wanted to give myself some focus in 2019 and do a better job setting myself up for success in my job. That’s not to say I wasn’t being successful. I just felt I could do better. Instead of being a bit random in the projects I am working on, I decided to create a list of projects that I intend to focus on for the rest of the year by priority. That list and their priority were agreed upon by my manager. And I keep this list in Microsoft To-Do. Now, when something random comes my way – I will measure it against this list to ensure I am focusing on the right things and evaluating any trade-offs that might need to be made. Part of this is also learning to say “no” to things (or delegate). I have always struggled with that. Part of this is that I want to give myself dedicated time to think about things more thoroughly and exert my creativity. I have a very active mind and it needs to let loose some creativity! Of course this list can evolve as priorities change and shift projects around!

I’ve created a personal financial plan for the entire year. I’ve created a financial Microsoft Excel spreadsheet where I have plugged in all my reoccurring expenses and bills. My goal is to pay down what debt I have and boost my personal savings account. This spreadsheet allows me to plug in and estimate numbers for the rest of the year. My intent is to be far smarter about my spending this year which also means being much more deliberate in choosing what nerdy things I collect. My other goal is to save up and trade-in my Ford F-150 by the end of the year. I love the truck but its far too big for what I need especially in the Seattle area. What will I trade my truck in for? Well, it will either be another Ford like the new Edge ST or a Tesla Model 3. We’ll see. Keeping your financials in good shape is a critical thing any adult should be doing and I was doing it previously but more on a month to month basis rather than long term.

I want to write more on my blog. I want to write more here on my blog. I find it therapeutic and it helps exert some of that creativity I mentioned above. There are a lot of topics I care about and I want to talk about those things here. Last year I floated the idea of possibly writing a book but realized I’m not ready yet to do that. I’ve begun using Microsoft OneNote to keep ideas on topics I want to write about on this blog.

I got to see the Space Shuttle Atlantis in real life!

I want to be a better advocate of the exploration of space. I recently donated and joined The Planetary Society. Through The Planetary Society, I sent letters to state and federal politicians regarding the impact of the recent U.S. Government shutdown on space exploration. I also became a backer of the Restore Historic Mision Control on Kickstarter to preserve the legacy of the Apollo Program.

I want to travel more this year. Ok, there are two pieces of this one. Whenever an opportunity to travel presents itself at work, I want to do it. I recently took my very first trip to Europe (London and Munich) and it was awesome! I’m going back to London at the end of this month for Microsoft Ignite | The Tour. Additionally, I need to be better at actually taking vacation time. I tried to take several weeks off over the holidays and didn’t do a great job. I’ve already made progress and plan to go with some friends to San Diego in June!

Me having tea in London.

So lets see how I do in accomplishing all these this year!

Idea: Someone should create a “Captain’s Log” digital assistant skill

On my way home from work today, I was thinking about how in Star Trek, Starfleet officers can summon the computer to start recording a log entry by using their voice. In Star Trek, Starfleet officers keep a record of their activities aboard their starship by recording logs which are like journal entries. This is particularly important for the senior officers on the starship such as the captain and first officer. This is why episodes of Star Trek often start with a “Captain’s log…”. So I got to thinking how cool it would be if someone were to develop a sort of “Captain’s log” skill for digital assistants like Cortana, Alexa, or Google Assistant where we could use our voice to start a personal log entry and start talking about our day. This would require a really good voice-to-text service and overall incredible voice recognition. This would be like Otter Voice Notes but on steroids. And imagine adding AI to this service so that when you record these logs, AI recognizes certain things like tasks, important events and adds them to lists and calendars automatically.

At the end of the evening, I’d love to be able to say “Hey Cortana, begin recording log entry” and start talking about and reflecting on my day and have things intelligently show up in my Microsoft To-Do lists and Outlook calendar.

What do you think?

My first trip to Europe

This Saturday, I leave for my very first trip to Europe! I am very excited about this trip. I’ll be getting to see London in the UK which I’ve always wanted to do and then also visiting Munich, Germany. It’s a work trip but I’m going to try and squeeze in some sightseeing! (If my boss lets me of course.) 

If you’re in London on November 11th, Windows Insider MVP Michael Gillett is putting on a small meet-up I’ll be attending. Stop by and say hello! 

We’re looking to do a meet-up in Munich as well but don’t have the details yet. Details for the Munich meet-up which is being put on by Insider MVP Raphael Koellner are included below! 

I’ll be blogging about my experiences as I travel next week! 

Try out the open-sourced Windows 3.1 File Manager

On April 6th, Windows 3.1 celebrated its 26th birthday. Windows 3.1 was the first version of Windows that exposed me to the world of personal computing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. I did so much on Windows 3.1. It was the OS I used to connect to the Internet for the first time. It was the OS I first used a CD-ROM with (to play the Star Trek: The Next Generation Interactive Technical Manual). To honor this great OS, you can download and run the original Windows 3.1 File Manager here from GitHub. File Manager was before File Explorer and was how you would navigate your PC’s hard drive and access your files. Microsoft has open-sourced File Manager for people to play around with. And now I’ve got File Manager pinned to my taskbar in Windows 10.

File Manager from Windows 3.1 running on Windows 10

Thanks to Christina Warren for the heads up last night!

Windows XP Professional

My high school report on the future of Windows

When I was a high school senior, I was in a special program called Students Recycling Used Technology (“StRUT”). We would take used PCs and repurpose them in our school in the labs and classrooms as well as get hands-on experience repairing and building PCs with various types of components. It was really fun! As part of the class — we had to do a technology report. And I recently discovered my report which was on the future of Windows. I got a kick out of the report so I thought I would share it out.

Yes, better emoji is coming to Windows 10

The Verge did a piece today that takes a closer look at Google’s new emoji coming to Android with the Android N update. The post pokes fun of Microsoft for lack of better emoji — specifically on the animals. But the article neglected to look at the new emoji coming to Windows 10 with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update. These emoji made their debut for Windows Insiders in Build 14316 for PC and Build 14322 for Mobile. I thinks its only fair to compare one unreleased OS update with another — right? So I decided to help The Verge out and rounded up a bunch of the new cat emoji and the octopus emoji:

New Windows 10 Emoji

For a closer look at the new emoji coming with the Windows 10 Anniversary Update — check out this post over at Emojipedia!

Remembering Windows 95

20 years ago today — Windows 95 was released. Windows 95 was the most significant update to Windows ever made at the time — ushering in the transition from 16-bit architecture to 32-bit architecture and introducing a completely brand new graphical user interface designed to make Windows much more consumer friendly. I was only 12 years old at the time but well on my way to being the computer nerd I am today. I thought I’d share some of my favorite memories of Windows 95 in honor of its 20th anniversary.

There are two things about Windows 95 that were big deals at the time for me when Windows 95 was released: it’s new UI and the Internet.

First — a little bit of backstory. In the early 90’s, my dad brought home our family’s first PC: a HP Vectra 486U. It ran Windows 3.1.

HP Vectra 486U

It was with this PC that I fell in love with Windows. My dad’s job at the time dealt with a lot of computer stuff and I learned to do things on the PC by watching him do things. I had tons of fun. But Windows 3.1 wasn’t exactly intuitive or easy to use. And I quickly got bored with MS Paint. I wanted to do a lot more. You had Program Manager that would be your go-to spot for all your applications and then File Manager to manage your files, etc. But Windows could be so much more easier to use. As a kid — I wanted Windows to enable me to do more.

When Windows 95 came out, my dad and I upgraded our PC together. When I say “together” I really mean I watched him go through the setup experience. And when the upgrade was done and the PC booted into Windows, I can remember being blown away by the new UI. It had a Start button! What did the new Start button do? A taskbar! This was all new! No more Program Manager! So how do I get to all my programs? How do I manage my files? I was so excited to learn the new Windows. I dove right in. The Start menu for me was the single best thing about Windows 95.

The next best thing about Windows 95 was how it made connecting to the Internet and browsing the web much more easier. When Windows 95 came out, I had already been “surfing the web” and checking email. In Windows 3.1, I remember having to use a command line to dial-in and connect to the Internet. With Windows 95, you could do this simply by double-clicking on a connection icon you setup for your Internet service. It also came with a brand new web browser called Internet Explorer. However, my dad didn’t like IE at the time so we kept with Netscape as our default web browser. But even Netscape was better on Windows 95 (they released Version 2.0 after the release of Windows 95). I do remember moving away from Eudora and using the inbox e-mail client Windows Messaging for my e-mail (as a 12 year old and one of the very few kids to even have an e-mail address at the time, I didn’t get much e-mail though).

After Windows 95 was released, I got a huge kick witnessing friends and family all of a sudden in the market for PCs. The PC market exploded with Windows 95 because it made using PCs and connecting to the Internet really easy. And I quickly became the kid everyone wanted to help them learn how to use their PC and the Internet — and I loved it.

Windows 95 helped people DO more with their PCs and I think at its heart — that’s what Windows is all about. And it’s great that Windows 10 has gone back to this.

Microsoft: #notdeadyet

CNN ran a story last week calling Microsoft a “dying consumer brand”. No way. With products like Windows 7 that have been on the market for the last year and Windows Phone 7 and Kinect hitting the market soon — I of course have to disagree. But my opinion is pretty biased. Frank Shaw, however, has started up a new hashtag on Twitter called #notdeadyet with a series of tweets highlighting some pretty eye-opening numbers regarding Microsoft. Here are some of what’s been highlighted:

And of course in September we also released the new version of Windows Live Essentials which includes new versions of Messenger, Mail, Photo Gallery, Movie Maker, Mesh (previously Sync), and Family Safety. Download Windows Live Essentials 2011 here. Here are some interesting data tidbits about Windows Live my pal Dharmesh published in a blog post last week:

  • 300 million active Messenger users.
  • Mesh is syncing over 500 terabytes of data between PCs (wow!).
  • 360 million active Hotmail users.
  • Hotmail delivers 8 billion email messages daily.

Over the summer, we also released Office Web Apps where you can edit and create Microsoft Office documents, PowerPoint presentations, and spreadsheets online through Windows Live!

And in September we also launched the beta of Internet Explorer 9. As of this week, the IE9 Beta has been downloaded 10 million times making it the fastest adopted browser beta. If you haven’t already, you can download the IE9 Beta here.

I also highly recommend reading Frank Shaw’s blog post on the official Microsoft Blog from June called Microsoft by the numbers for further perspective.

Microsoft is not dead yet.