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Real-time Speech and Text Translation with Skype

Real-time Speech and Text Translation with Skype

Microsoft today announced the availability to use their real-time speech and text translation service through Skype if you signed up for the preview program.

This new speech translator service will make it possible to translate between English and Spanish for the time being but additional languages will be supported in the future. Text translation will be available between 40 different languages, which is an impressive number.

The world we are living in just got a lot smaller, the possibilities for this in all areas of our lives (Work, Education, Governments and Family) will be forever life changing.

For more information, check out the source link below…

Sign Up for the preview here:

Would you rather be 80 percent productive on an iPad or 100 percent productive on a Surface Pro 3?

Would you rather be 80 percent productive on an iPad or 100 percent productive on a Surface Pro 3?

Recently I ran across this article over on GIGAOM written by Mark Crump entitled “Could I do 80 percent of my work on an iPad?

It peaked my interest because this sounded like it was going to be a nice experiment about Tim Cook’s original comment that he is able to do 80% of his work on his iPad.

Mark starts off the article by saying he is a big proponent of using iPad for productivity and wanted to truly see if he could do his job on an iPad. He goes on to break down how he spends his day working, he even has pretty pie charts and everything.

Even while throwing out his “side job” of freelance writing because really all you need for that is a word processor he breaks his job down into other tasks around his real day of Meetings, Word (writing), Excel, and Visio. Things that are not particularly difficult to do even from a phone.

In the end he concluded that he could do nearly half of his work on an iPad, the remainder he needed something better than an iPad. So even though he has relatively basic job requirements – he still could only use his iPad for half of his job. Yikes!

About halfway though his article I actually burst out laughing when I realized he literally had to sit down and break out his entire work structure, evaluate his ability to do his job on a device that he strongly encourages people to use as a productivity tool which in the end he is only able to do 50% of his job with. Do you have any idea how crazy that is!

I have a Surface Pro 3, you know how much of my job I can do on it: 100 Percent.

I don’t even have to think about it, it literally just works for my entire job – I have no doubts at all. That my friends is called NO COMPROMISES.

IPad users have to ask themselves: “What CAN I do on my iPad?”
Surface Pro 3 users ask themselves: “What CAN’T I do on my Surface?”

The wording is only slightly different but the difference in meaning is huge!

My job isn’t based around simple word processing either, my job involves large Photoshop files, Illustrator documents, Visual Studio, Expression Blend, Outlook, Office – plus numerous other apps. No Compromise.

Back to Tim Cook’s original comment saying he “can do about 80% of his work on his iPad”, I say “80% isn’t good enough, I need 100%.” – with my Surface Pro 3 it’s finally possible.

Individuals and Businesses who are trying to decide between an iPad or a Surface Pro 3 – the answer is obvious – even Tim Cook, who goes to meetings and responds to emails all day can only do 80% of his job on his iPad. Why would you compromise 20% of your productivity to a device that clearly won’t meet your needs?

Choose Surface Pro 3 and be 100% productive, streamline and only use two devices – not four.

Exploring Microsoft’s Modern Design Language

Exploring Microsoft’s Modern Design Language

The “Modern” design language – formally known as “Metro” is Microsoft’s “new” set of design guidelines which has been integrated across many of their software products. Microsoft is just now starting to really push this modern design language as a standard within the company, we can actually see hints of it in some of their older applications like Windows Media Center and the Zune music player – both of these products started the trend for Microsoft to start focusing on elegant design, typography and animation.

Zune HD

Where did this Modern design language come from?

It’s actually influenced on three external foundations:

  1. The Modern Design Movement (The Bauhaus)
  2. International Typographic Style (Swiss Style)
  3. Motion Design

The Modern Design Movement (The Bauhaus)

The Bauhaus movement was geared towards the removing of any extra decorations and ornaments and leaving the focus solely on the purpose and ultimate functionality. This approach to design is distinctly different from what Apple created with iOS which has for the most part relied on a more Skeuomorphism approach. An approach that tries to replicate real world imagery and functionality through realistic ornamental elements.

Here is a good example of from iBooks that shows a Skeuomorphic approach to design with it’s wood grain background, shelves, heavy use of shadows and of course actually showing what looks to be books on the shelf.

Skeuomorphism in iBooks

Take that compared to Kobo Reader on Windows Phone, you can se a striking difference between the two images – the popular new term for this style is “Flat”, we are starting to see many other companies adopt this Flat style. Google’s Android is probably the biggest company outside of Microsoft to adopt this new style – I have to commend them for making their UI much more consistent and clean through flat design.

Kobo Reader

I’m not going to get into the debate on which is “right” Skeuomorphism or Flat Design, I think they both have their advantages and disadvantages and the user simply needs to pick a style they like and join a platform that is attractive to them. I’m a big fan of the flat design style I tend to design towards the functionality rather than an ornamental style.

International Typographic Style (Swiss Style)

The Swiss style emphasizes cleanliness, readability and objectivity with a strong focus on layout and grid systems and the use of bold flat color. You have seen this style of typography almost anywhere that you go, it is used in signage at airports, bus stations the Olympics and many other information dense environments.

Swiss Style Typography

The elegant use of typography in Microsoft’s design language is one of the main reasons I love designing on their platform. It used to be that great typography was only for print design, Microsoft was able to bring it into the digital realm in an aesthetically pleasing and functional way.

As you can see below, Windows 8 and Windows Phone applications are based very strongly on the grid, you can read a lot more about how Microsoft uses the grid here: Laying out an App Page

Grid Unit Structure
Windows 8 Grid Structure

Application Grid Template
Visual Studio 11 Grid Template

In addition to the grid structure, Microsoft has also used big bold colors in their new Modern environment.

Windows 8 Start Screen
Windows 8 Start Screen

Color gives the sense of emotion, attraction and makes it feel more organic as well – especially when the color is used on the hardware itself.

Windows Phone
Nokia Phones

Motion Design

The final and certainly not the last, Motion Design is the third external influence of the Modern Design Language. Similar to Typography, we see motion design everywhere – from the Television and Movies we watch, to digital billboards and scoreboards and of course animations in the applications we use on our phones and computers.

The best Motion design in my opinion is motion that is used in a subtle and simple way, whether it’s a link background color fading in and out as you mouse of it or as various UI elements slide or flip into place as you use your phone.

Wrapping Up

When you take these 3 external influences and pair them up with Microsoft’s five design principles (Pride in Craftsmanship, Fast and Fluid, Authentically Digital, Do More With Less and Win as One) you get a very strong foundation and understanding of how to design for Windows 8 and Windows Phone. We’ll dive deeper into the 5 design principles in our next exploration article coming up soon.

Check out our initial Exploration Introduction Article: Exploring Modern App Design and User Experience

OneDrive for Everything in Your Life – SkyDrive Renamed and Improved

OneDrive for Everything in Your Life – SkyDrive Renamed and Improved

SkyDrive has been one of the most useful online services I use in my day-to-day activities both for work and home life. I easily sync my Windows 8 machines with each other through SkyDrive’s built in sync features, every photo I take on my Lumia 928 automatically gets pushed to my SkyDrive account and I use it heavily for storing files for projects I’m currently working on. And now, it’s the same great service but with a new name: “OneDrive for Everything in Your Life”.

Check out the promotional video below, I love the music they chose and the overall emotion and animations look great.

Some may even remember the “Mesh” or “LiveMesh” service from years and years ago – even at that time I loved the idea of cloud storage and file syncing between devices was super important. It simply wasn’t where it needed to be, later on Microsoft improved the service and named it SkyDrive and now, yet again we have a new name. Fortunately, I do think that the new name fits the service better and really describes what the service does in a nutshell.

Why OneDrive? We know that increasingly you will have many devices in your life, but you really want only one place for your most important stuff. One place for all of your photos and videos. One place for all of your documents. One place that is seamlessly connected across all the devices you use. You want OneDrive for everything in your life.

Source: OneDrive Blog

Exploring Modern App Design and User Experience – Introduction

Exploring Modern App Design and User Experience – Introduction

Soon we’ll be starting a new blog series of exploration articles digging into the exciting world of Microsoft’s Modern Design Language and User Experiences guidelines that has been defined for Windows 8 applications and then encourage you to break those guidelines to provide your users with a unique and beautiful experience.

Throughout this series we will talking about the numerous controls available within Windows 8 applications, we’ll talk about how, where and why these controls are used, and explore the experiences around those controls. We’ll also show some real-world examples of how application designers are using these controls today within their applications.

Every article will be focused on a very specific part of Windows 8, this will allow our users to gain a solid understanding of how each feature within Windows 8 works from a “tutorial” or “average user” type of experience while still providing some of the more technical and creative information that designers and developers may find beneficial.

The end goal is for anyone who is interested in designing Modern applications to gain an in-depth, start to finish set of tutorials to help you provide your users with a useful, creative and interactive experience as they use your Windows 8 applications.

Here are some of the topics we’ll be covering in the coming months:

  • Overview of the Modern Design Language
  • Microsoft’s Five Design Principles
  • Start Screen
  • Charms Bar
  • Live Tiles
  • Hub Pages, Detail Pages
  • App Bar
  • Flyouts
  • Semantic Zoom
  • Listview, Gridview, Variable Sized Grid
  • Typography
  • Search
  • Animations/Transitions
  • Grids
  • Navigation
  • And so much more…

We are open to your suggestions as well, if there is something specific you’d like us to dig into, feel free to let us know and we’ll do our best to fit it in.

Be sure to check back often to keep up with this exciting new series, we hope you will learn something new and are able to take your application design and experiences to the next level!