The Midweek Download: Fourth of July Edition–Tapping Into the Power of Kinect, plus Windows 8 Upgrade News

In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect, Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and more.

Startup companies take Kinect into uncharted territory. “The Web is a depressingly flat place,” declares Nicolas Tisserand, one half of French startup Manctl. “It’s time to bring some depth to digital life.” Tisserand is explaining why his company temporarily relocated from Lyon to an office building in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. As if on cue, his partner Nicolas Burrus stands up with a Kinect sensor in hand. He slowly circles a visitor to the office where the duo has set up shop. As he does, an interactive 3D rendering of the room and the individual appears on a nearby monitor. For the rest of this story, head on over to the Microsoft News Center. Below, Dave Malcolm, managing director of the Microsoft Accelerator for Kinect, demonstrated how start-up übi interactive can turn any surface into a touchscreen.

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Readying Metro style apps for launch. As we approach the release of Windows 8, the catalog of Metro style apps continues to grow. To date, people have experienced apps that Microsoft has included with the downloaded build, and those that are offered in the Store in both the Consumer Preview and Release Preview timeframe. Many of those apps are great examples of immersive, touch-first Metro style experiences. However, like the Windows releases they run on, these apps are preview versions of the apps to come. The final versions of all Metro style apps will be available when Windows 8 becomes generally available. Check out this Tuesday post on Building Windows 8 for more detail.

Upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. We set out to make it as easy as possible for everyone to upgrade to Windows 8. Starting at general availability, if your PC is running Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 you will qualify to download an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $39.99 in 131 markets. And if you want, you can add Windows Media Center for free through the “add features” option within Windows 8 Pro after your upgrade. Check out this Monday post on Blogging Windows for the full story.

Modernizing input in Windows 8. In Windows 8, we set out to modernize our input platform. We wanted to make sure that developing for it became more straightforward, but also to build a foundation that can grow and support new input modalities as Windows and apps evolve. To do this, we went back to basics and focused on core principles that guide our design. In this Monday post on the Windows 8 App Developer Blog, we share with you why these principles matter, and how you can take advantage of the platform to build great apps in Windows 8.

Recapping Windows Phone 8 developer news. It’s been a a little more than a week since we unveiled Windows Phone 8 to the world at the Windows Phone Summit. As the person responsible for our new developer platform, Windows Phone’s Kevin Gallo took a moment to recap some of our key developer announcements in case you missed them in this June 29 post on the Windows Phone Developer Blog. Don’t miss it.

Smartphones, sensors and the age of domestic drones. “In this month’s issue of Wired Magazine, editor Chris Anderson puts the spotlight on the burgeoning population of drones, but not those in the skies over Afghanistan or Iraq. The drones Chris is talking about are being built and created by hobbyists like himself, all around the world. There’s even an online community that Chris created for like-minded hobbyists to share their ideas and experiments. And aside from being a creative outlet for those more technically inclined, drones can also serve more practical purposes such as managing crops or monitoring algae blooms in the ocean,” writes Next at Microsoft Editor Steve Clayton in this Tuesday blog post. It’s an engrossing read and features a cool video, so check it out.

Test the Web forward. The quality and correctness of different browsers’ HTML5 engines continue to vary widely. We continue to contribute to the test suites under development at W3C to further the goal of web platform interoperability and same markup. In total, we have submitted 7573 tests that you can view at the IE Test Center as well. As different browsers improve their same-markup support, we can all realize the promise of HTML5. Head on over to the IEBlog to get the rest of the story.

Doctrine supports SQL Database Federations for massive scalability on Windows Azure. Symfony and Doctrine are a popular combination for PHP developers, and now you can take full advantage of these open source frameworks on Windows Azure. We covered in a separate post the basics of getting started with Symfony on Windows Azure, and in this June 29 post we’ll take a look at Doctrine’s support for sharing via SQL Database Federations, which is the result of ongoing collaboration between Microsoft Open Technologies and members of the Symfony/Doctrine community.

Samsung Electronics adopts Windows Azure for Smart TV infrastructure in the cloud. Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. is announcing its decision to adopt Windows Azure to manage its Smart TV infrastructure. By choosing Windows Azure cloud technology, Samsung achieved significant reduction in costs, and an increased capacity to meet its growing customer base and higher productivity. You can read more about it over on the Microsoft News Center.

That’s it for this edition of The Midweek Download! Have a great Fourth of July!

Posted by Jeff Meisner
Editor, The Official Microsoft Blog