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Microsoft: Desperately wooing developers with new app features, gifts

Tim Greene | June 28, 2013
CEO Steve Ballmer set a tone of urgency for the Microsoft Build conference.

Microsoft's Bing search engine has been made into a platform for developers to incorporate Web indexing and relevance, optical character recognition, natural user interfaces such as speech and gestures and integration with real-world data such as mapping.

A trip-planning application developed by Microsoft as a demonstration received input from a Windows Phone that was stored in the cloud then accessed from a Surface tablet. The app automatically displayed a range of information about cities entered as possible destinations, including aerial tours of sights of interest narrated by a text-to-speech engine that drew information from the Internet. This exploits a new capability of Windows 8.1, 3D mapping that can be embedded in applications.

The app responded to a spoken question "Who designed this building" with a photo and biography of the architect, also pulled from the Internet.

A separate food application includes recipes and takes advantage of a hands-free mode that lets cooks turn recipe pages with hand gestures rather than having to touch the screen with messy fingers. The camera on the tablet interprets hand motions to navigate the pages back and forth.

Ballmer says the day-two keynote will focus on cloud applications for business and how developers can use extensibility of standard Microsoft Office apps to create apps of their own in what he described as enterprise software as a service.


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