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Award-winning GamePho app and Windows 8.1 empower gamers with multi-screen, converged experiences


Emre Taş recently received support from App Campus to develop and launch the two-match puzzle game, Witch Potion, in the Windows Phone Store. Taş is the CEO of the Turkish development firm Alictus. Impressed with the features and performance of the 8.1 platform, he is excited about porting his award-winning motion-controller app, GamePho, to Windows. So far, he is in love with the possibilities of the converged platform and is eagerly awaiting the release of the Miracast feature. I caught up with him to learn more about his innovative GamePho app and how he plans to use Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 to take his game to new levels.

Tell us about GamePho and why are you excited about porting the game to Windows Phone 8.1?

“The convergence of the Windows platforms has eliminated difficulties for developers and has certainly simplified our game’s cross-platform operation.”

GamePho is a motion-controller app; it enables gamers to play motion-sensing games on a PC with a smartphone rather than having to buy an additional device. GamePho detects the smartphone in 3D as it moves, allowing the user to control the game on a second screen.

It was quite easy to port GamePho to Windows Phone 8.1, and we were pleasantly surprised when our motion detection algorithms worked flawlessly the first time we tried them after the transition.

Most developers find it burdensome to have to develop games that will deliver a consistent experience across platforms because they usually encounter problems with even the most basic projects. The convergence of the Windows platforms has eliminated such difficulties for developers and has certainly simplified our game’s cross-platform operation. We love the converged app model, and it is particularly relevant to GamePho’s core dual-screen philosophy. Micracast has the potential to simplify our technical operation even further, and that’s exciting.

With the converged app model, we can bundle GamePho into Windows Phone 8.1 games, and users will end up with the game on each of their Windows devices. Some users will play on a big screen using their phones as controllers while others will just enable the GamePho feature in Windows Phone 8.1. We’re creating different yet lively experiences for both screens. For instance, users can play their GamePho-enabled shooter games on Windows Phone and then start playing on a PC, using a phone as a gun, and friends can join in with their gun-phones too.

We think our vision aligns with Microsoft’s, especially with regard to second-screen experiences and convergence. And we are using Windows Phone 8.1 on our development devices, including entry-level devices, and I can vouch that no other mobile operating system performs so well on such devices. The operation is so fluid, one can barely tell the difference between using an entry-level device or a high-level device. Windows Phone 8.1 provides more possibilities to engage users than any other platform.

Which Windows Phone 8.1 features do you plan to use?

“We plan to use [geofencing] to connect players in the same geography and encourage them to play the game together on one of those bigger screens using their Windows Phones as controllers.”

We’ll use many of the new features to increase engagement. For instance, we’ll use the Action Center and Azure to send customized push notifications across different devices, knowing we won’t bother our users since they can choose which notifications to receive on each device. And we’ll make it easier for our users to engage on those multiple devices—including bigger screens and smart TVs—by using Miracast once it’s available.

The geofencing API is fascinating too. We plan to use it to connect players in the same geography and encourage them to play the game together on one of those bigger screens using their Windows Phones as controllers. We’re also planning to get creative with the new Live Tile templates so we can visually inform users about their game progress, giving them reason to keep coming back.

 What is your advice to developers?

“The benefits and opportunities to engage your users [on Windows Phone 8.1] are endless compared to other platforms.”

No matter what you are building, keep your audience in mind. Stay in touch with your potential users and get their constant feedback. Design your games according to their needs and desires, and don’t be afraid to redesign. Your final app or game may be very different from what you set out to build because it has to become what the users think it should be.

Don’t hesitate to develop for or port to Windows Phone 8.1. Support for the platform is great, and the benefits and opportunities to engage your users are endless compared to other platforms.

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August updates for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2


In April, we released a bigger, more comprehensive package of improvements to Windows 8.1 called the Windows 8.1 Update. We did the same for Server too, with Windows Server 2012 R2 Update. As we said at the time, our goal is to continue to deliver improvements to Windows through regular updates in order to respond more quickly to customer and partner feedback. After all, we already have a regular monthly update process that includes security and non-security updates.

With the above in mind, rather than waiting for months and bundling together a bunch of improvements into a larger update as we did for the Windows 8.1 Update, customers can expect that we’ll use our already existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of “Update Tuesday.” So despite rumors and speculation, we are not planning to deliver a Windows 8.1 “Update 2.”

We’ll continue to use our normal channels such as Windows Update (WU), Microsoft Update (MU), and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) to deliver updates to Windows. These updates will include security updates to help keep you protected, as well as non-security updates that can bring a range of improvements to your PC or tablet running Windows. Examples of some of these non-security updates are the Windows Store Refresh in May and the June update to OneDrive to improve your control of sync. Some of these improvements might be more visible or even new features, while others might be more “behind-the-scenes” that improve things like the performance and reliability of your device. With these monthly updates, we continue to refine and improve Windows 8.1 in a more nimble way, creating a richer experience for all Windows customers.

Following are some of the new features and improvements included in the August 12th Update Tuesday:

  • Precision touchpad improvements – three new end-user settings have been added: Leave touch pad on when a mouse is connected; allow right-clicks on the touchpad; double-tap and drag.
  • Miracast Receive – exposes a set of Wi-Fi direct APIs for Independent Hardware Vendor (IHV) drivers or OEM drivers to develop Windows 32-bit applications that run on all supported x86-based or x64-based versions of Windows 8.1, enabling the computer as a Miracast receiver.
  • Minimizing login prompts for SharePoint Online – reduces the number of prompts with federated use in accessing SharePoint Online sites. If you select the “Keep me signed in” check box when you log on for the first time, you will not see prompts for successive access to that SharePoint Online site.

This update will be delivered automatically via WU and optional through WSUS. Enterprises can take the update anytime. Further details on the update will be included here on August 12th.

For current Windows 8.1 consumers who have elected automatic updates, the rollout will be gradual to ensure all customers receive the update in a timely manner. Those who wish to install the update ahead of automatic updates may do so beginning August 12th manually via Windows Update.

As you might expect, we’re taking the same approach to deliver improvements to Windows Server 2012 R2 as well – go here for additional information.

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Windows Phone folders: A new way to organize your Start screen


There’s no right or wrong way to arrange your Tiles on Start—there’s only your way. And now, with folders in Windows Phone 8.1 Update, you can make your Start screen more you-ier than ever before. If it’s a Tile on Start, you can add it to a folder. Just push one Tile over another one to make it happen.

Folders let you group apps, people, websites, and anything else that can be pinned to Start. Below, we (Windows Phone writers Dylan and Matt) provide examples of how we use folders under the guise of doing “research” for work.

Find out when you can get Windows Phone 8.1 Update (including folders) on your phone here.

Make your voyage extra bon (Dylan’s vacation folder)

The most stressful part of any big trip I take is getting there. That includes packing, getting to the airport, and freaking out when I can’t find my passport—only to realize it’s been in my back pocket all along.

But the next time I go on vacation, I’ll be prepared with a travel folder on my Windows Phone Start screen chock full of stress-reducing and good time-enhancing apps, maps, and more. I can see the folder now…

  • Packing list. I can keep my packing list OneNote note in my travel folder. This way I have it handy when I shop for my trip and I don’t leave anything critical behind.
  • Weather. I don’t want to be stuck in t-shirt territory when the forecast calls for sweater weather. A Tile for my destination from the Bing Weather app should do the trick.
  • Airline app. No check-in counter for this efficient flyer: I plan to keep the airline’s app in my folder so I can get to my digital boarding pass when I need it.
  • Restaurants/places. After enduring airplane food, I’m always ready for something fresh and local upon my arrival. A few recommended restaurants in my travel folder will make it easy to find good eatin’.
  • Directions. Deciding where to eat is only half the battle—I’ll still need to find the place. From the Maps app, I can pin a few restaurant locations to Start, then add them to my folder. (Tip within a tip: Download a map before going to a foreign country to avoid using data.)

Boy, Hypothetical Future Me sure is a savvy traveler!

My Start screen with Cabo vacation folder minimized (left) and expanded (right)

The thrill of victory and the (frequent) agony of defeat (Matt’s sports folder)

I’ve looked for ways to keep sports from taking over my Start screen. A Tile here, a Tile there, and before you know it, Tiles for sports everywhere. As a long-suffering Cleveland sports fan, it’s not always good news on those Live Tiles either, so I might as well keep all my sports-related misery in one place. Here are some things I have in my sports folder:

  • Scores. I made the Cleveland Indians one of my interests in Cortana’s Notebook. After pinning that interest to Start and putting it in my folder, I get the score for today’s game right on the Live Tile. If I want more detailed info and stats about the game, I just tap the Tile to get it.
  • Fantasy teams. Keeping track of my fantasy baseball team is easier now. I just go into my sports folder and tap the Tile for my team to see how they’re doing. (Nowadays, the answer is usually “Not so good.”) But fantasy football season is right around the corner, so I’ll have more fantasy teams to check on soon enough. Maybe the news will be a little better.
  • Sports radio. On the way to work in the morning, I happily settle into my seat on the bus knowing that I’m just a tap or two from sports radio bliss and the latest sports news.
  • Sports news apps. And of course, I have a bunch of sports apps (ESPN Hub, Bing Sports, and Bleacher Report to name a few—I know, I’m a bit fanatical) to help me keep up on all the latest sports news throughout the day.

My sports-themed folder with my dog Cooper looking on

Unfold-er the possibilities

Travel and sports are of course just a few of the endless number of things you can put in folders to keep your Start screen looking nice and clean. Here are a few more quick ideas we had to get you started:

  • Projects at work or school. Put all your Word docs, PowerPoint slides, OneNote notes, and other things in a folder to keep projects organized and on track.
  • Social networking. Put your social networking apps in one place to stay on top of what’s going on.
  • People. Create a Brady Bunch-esque folder of your friends and family for easy access. Text, email, or call them in a couple of taps.
  • Music and videos. Add albums, artists, websites, and whatever else, so your favorite music and videos are at your fingertips.
  • Cooking. Add your favorite recipes to a folder, toss in a dash of your favorite food blogs, and then stir in your grocery list from OneNote. You’ll be cooking in no time.

What creative folder ideas can you come up with?

- Dylan Romero and Matt Lichtenberg

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Windows platform developer August updates


This morning, the Windows platform team has released three new Windows platform developer updates available for you:

  • Visual Studio 2013 Update 3 is now available, providing a number of productivity improvements for the Windows platform developer
  • The Windows Phone 8.1 Update emulator package is also now available, providing you with the latest phone image to test your app
  • And the Windows Phone 8.1 Update is also now available via the Windows Phone Preview Program for Developers, enabling you to run your apps on a physical phone running the latest update

In this post, I’d like to provide a quick lap around these three updates, and provide some context around what they add to your developer toolkit.

Visual Studio 2013 Update 3

While today’s Visual Studio Update contains a whole lot of productivity goodness for the Microsoft developer (see Soma’s blog post for more details), I’d like to call out three new capabilities available that improve the Windows app building experience:

  • You can now use a Push Notification wizard to connect your Windows app (client or phone) to a .NET Azure Mobile Service.
  • Sockets are now available for you to use in your Windows apps, adding another networking option for your WinRT-based apps
  • DirectX graphical debugging tooling improvements help DX devs be more productive – including some bug fixes and the addition of a command line tool in the DX remote MSI package to allow for capturing a graphics trace on a remote system without having to install the entire Windows SDK or Visual Studio.

To get Update 3, head on over to the Visual Studio download page.

Windows Phone 8.1 Update

Today, we are also making Windows Phone 8.1 Update available to our developers, both via emulator packages and a physical phone update. Today’s update continues the Windows Phone tradition of making phone updates available ahead of general consumer availability, and providing you with the opportunity to test your apps and games with the update before your customers start doing so.

As shown off by JoeB last week, there’s a ton of end-user goodness in the update (check out Joe’s Update 1 post for more info). However, you’re a developer, and you’re likely wondering what’s in the update for you. Overall, the update contains no new developer APIs, but it does contain a number of OS improvements that are sure to improve the overall experience your customers will have with your app. Here are three Update 1 improvements that I believe are worth calling out:

  • Consumer VPN support brings peace of mind to phone users wanting to access an app’s backend services in a safe and secure manner.
  • There are a number of Bluetooth connectivity improvements in the update, improving the BT integration with cars and headsets, and we’ve added a new Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN) profile. Also of note on the BT-front, the team has added some additional APIs for device manufacturers to make it easier to build companion apps for their devices and to enable notifications to be more easily pushed from the phone to a wearable device.
  • On the user start screen, the Store app now sports a live tile to help developers get discovered and installed more often, and the new Live Folders capability should help make it easier for you to be found and launched.


To grab the bits and start seeing how your app runs on the update:

  • You can now download the Windows Phone 8.1 Update emulator package from the Windows Dev Center download page.
  • To update your phone to the Windows Phone 8.1 Update, you’ll need to use the Windows Phone Preview for Developers program. Once your phone is opted in, you need to go into ‘Settings’ | ‘Phone update’ and check for an update; if you’re not seeing the update, verify that the ’Preview for Developers’ app is installed and that the ‘Enable Preview for Developers’ checkbox is selected.

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Facebook for Windows Phone gets a big update today


Today, Facebook for Windows Phone is receiving a major update that brings an updated design and new features that were previously available in beta. Along with the overhauled user experience and improved app performance, Facebook for Windows Phone now supports more languages and has the ability for you to upload videos taken with your Windows Phone device directly to from the app. It also supports integration with Facebook Messenger for Windows Phone. And for devices with Windows Phone 8.1, it will now connect directly with the People Hub. In Windows Phone 8.1, Facebook contacts, events, and photo albums are now powered by the Facebook for Windows Phone app. If you have the app, you should receive the update shortly. If you don’t have it, download it here from the Windows Phone Store.

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11 unforgettable Windows themes


A day or two after I published my last blog post, I suddenly realized that I’d completely forgotten to mention one of the new themes I’d been the most excited to bring you – Panoramas of Europe! So this time, I’m making sure to talk about it first.

This theme is huge in several ways – it contains 21 massive double-width images designed to span dual monitors on the new Windows, and it includes photos from across the expanse of Continental Europe – and from the UK and Iceland, too. This dramatic shot shows Kirkjufell Mountain on Iceland’s Snæfellsnes peninsula.

Kirkjufell Mountain takes on a new and otherworldly look when it is illuminated by the shifting veils of the aurora borealis. I hope you’ll enjoy the glow of the eerie but beautiful atmospheric phenomenon in this set of wintry scenes from Iceland and Norway.


For views of Europe from a completely different perspective, try the Bing Maps: Europe theme. You’ll feel like you’re flying in a small plane over red-tiled roofs in Spain, patchworks of farmland in Germany, curving rivers in England, mountain formations in France, and colored tulip fields in the Netherlands. This shot is of boats and islands near Sardinia, Italy.

You can pilot your plane over the United States, too, from gardens in Oregon to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Pennsylvania, and from glaciers in Alaska to the Everglades National Park in Florida. This shot shows the Shoshone Falls at Twin Falls, Idaho.

 One of the most well-loved features of Bing is the amazing selection of photography (and sometimes videos) featured every day on the Bing home page. It’s hard to believe that Bing has been providing incredible images – and interesting info about each one – for more than five years! Bing’s fifth anniversary was on May 28, 2014, and they released this theme to celebrate. This theme is different from all the rest of our themes, in that it uses Bing’s installer which lets users on Windows Vista and Windows XP enjoy the images, too. The installer will also set Bing as your default search engine and home page.

For more ruggedly expansive views, check out the new Rock Formations panoramic theme. It includes dramatic locations such as the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, Bryce Canyon in Utah, the Pinnacles at Nambung National Park in Australia, and the fairy chimney rock formations in Cappadocia, Turkey, shown here. This theme is designed to extend background images across dual monitors in the new Windows.


The rest of our new themes feature the works of contributors to the Open Call. First up is a tour through the serene beaches and harbor towns of Germany’s Fischland-Darß-Zingst peninsula, by photographer Markus Janse, who previously introduced us to the shoreline scenery of Spiekeroog.


For a darker and more abstract aesthetic, take a look at the innovative photography in the new Light Painting theme from a talented artist who goes by the name of LayonerBeast.

 The Community Showcase series of themes we launched earlier this year has been very popular – particularly the ongoing Aqua series. If you enjoyed Aqua and Aqua 2 I’m happy to announce that Community Showcase: Aqua 3 is here, full of beautiful images of water in all its forms – glittering dewdrops, rushing waterfalls, crystalline snowflakes, and pools that reflect the colors of the sky. It features the images of 21 different photographers, including Rowe Cierras, Grace Eggleston, Yatin Gambhir, and Alexa Brown. This golden sunset over Chott el Djerid in Tunisia was captured by Saša Petrović.


As with the Everyday Art and Everyday Art 2 themes, Community Showcase: Everyday Art 3 is a collection of images capturing moments of beauty or humor in everyday life. This theme showcases images by 21 different photographers, including Kemal Can Zeytünlü, Laura Hanna, Allan Richardson, and Monika Rosa. This moody photo of dead leaves fallen across the keyboard of an old piano was taken by Esikova Daria.

Flora and Flora 2 brought together the best garden, floral, and plant life photos from our community of talented contributors, and Community Showcase: Flora 3 continues in the same tradition with images from 21 different photographers including Alhassan Omar, Ekaterina Kokushkina, Horváth Timcsi, and Sarah McDevitt. This vivid marigold was captured by Ricardo Ferreira Ramos.

If you have an older version of Windows that can’t use themes, or if you prefer to use a single image, we have new desktop décor for you, too. Here are just a few of our new wallpapers.



If you usually read to the end of my blog posts (thank you!) then you probably know I say this every time… but that’s because I just want to make sure everyone knows that they can customize their Windows 8 or 8.1 lock screen – or Windows Phone – with wallpapers from the Personalization Gallery, too. I explained how in this blog post.

That wraps up the latest overview of new themes and wallpapers. I hope you’ll remember to keep checking back on the Personalization Gallery for more great new imagery to keep your Windows PC or Windows Phone looking fresh – and unforgettable.


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