Microsoft Acquires SyntaxTree To Offer Better Unity Support In Visual Studio

posted Jul 3, 2014, 8:58 AM by Chandan Datta

Microsoft today announced that it has acquired SyntaxTree, the France-based company behind UnityVS, a popular Visual Studio plugin for developers that use the cross-platform Unity framework to write their games.

As S. “Soma” Somasegar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of its Developer Division, notes, the company plans to integrate UnityVS into Visual Studio “and to continue to push forward Visual Studio’s support for game developers.”

UnityVS helps developers to more easily debug their Unity scripts and provides code snippets, wizards and other tools. It also provides integration between the Unity console and Visual Studio. By default, Unity itself offers its own limited support for Visual Studio C# integration, but UnityVS goes quite a bit beyond this.

The existing plug-in, which previously cost $99 for a personal license and $249 for a professional one, will soon be available for free on Microsoft’s download site. SyntaxTree says it will also soon reach out to its existing customers to provide them with further details for how it will continue to support them. The list of UnityVS’s current users includes the likes of Microsoft Studios, Electronic Arts, Blizzard, Valve and Rovio.

Unity currently has over 2 million developers on its platform, many of whom are also Visual Studio users, which explains today’s acquisition. While the Unity engine supports all of the main desktop, mobile and console platforms, Microsoft is obviously interested in its support for Windows, Windows Store and Windows Phone apps.

Today’s acquisition shows the company’s commitment to supporting the Unity engine in Visual Studio, but it’s worth noting that Unity competitor Unreal offers its own Visual Studio plug-in, and CryTek’s CryEngine pretty much assumes that you are using Visual Studio as your main IDE.

How Satya Nadella Has Completely Changed Microsoft In Just 3 Months

posted May 16, 2014, 3:22 AM by Chandan Datta

Three months ago Microsoft announced that long-time Microsoftie Satya Nadella would become the company’s third CEO.

That has turned out to be a very smart choice.

In a few short weeks, the company has a fresh outlook and a more respectful attitude toward all of its constituents, its customers, developers and, most especially, its competitors.

The sunny outlook is infectious. Microsoft’s stock is trading at a 14-year high, hovering around $US40 share.

A quick tour of what’s been going on at Microsoft shows the company making changes at a feverish pace.

Within the past few days …

Nadella proved that Microsoft’s war with Apple is over. Microsoft has been using Apple’s iPad and iPhones with Microsoft software and cloud services in public demos all over the place: at its developer’s conference, at its big customer conference. We expect Apple’s products to appear on stage at its big partner conference in July, too.

Under Nadella, Microsoft ended “one of the most egregious price gouging experiences in personal technology,” as blogger Paul Thurrott at Supersite for Windows, called it. Microsoft said it would end the tactic of making Xbox users pay for an upgraded Live Gold subscription just to use the entertainment features included in the console.

He, himself, talked to Wall Street analysts at the quarterly conference call. That’s something that Ballmer didn’t do. He struck the right tone between confidence and humility, telling the Street that Microsoft’s new attitude is “courage in the face of reality.”

He launched Microsoft into the hottest new market, called the Internet of Things (IoT), which will become a $US1.6 trillion market within four years, Microsoft says, and a $US19 trillion market in a decade, Cisco says. Microsoft launched a new database, a new cloud service and a new big data analysis service for IoT apps.

He also discussed his vision for IoT and Microsoft’s place in it, something he calls a ‘data culture’ where all people have instant access to the vast amounts of knowledge.

And he announced that Microsoft will be making a version of Windows for wearables.

Within the past few weeks …

He convinced developers to create more apps for Windows 8 and Windows Phone by offering them what is known as the “Holy Grail” in app development, tools that let an app developer write the app once and easily convert it to all Windows versions (Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox) and also to iOS and Android.

After seeing the new tools, one developer told us, “This was a very strategic move. Microsoft is offering a lot of support, making it easy to work with them.”

Under him, Microsoft killed the tile-based look of Windows 8 for PCs with keyboards and no touch screens, undoing Microsoft’s earlier decision to force people to use the start screen with Windows 8.

He made Windows free for all devices with nine-inch or smaller screens, a major business-model change for Windows.

He’s allowed Nokia to continue to sell its new Android devices. This choice by Nokia while the acquisition was pending was considered a major embarrassment to Microsoft. But in Nadella’s Microsoft, it’s just a shrug.

Microsoft no longer views anything “not Windows” as an enemy of Microsoft. Nadella looks at Android as just another platform that can run Microsoft software and cloud services.

Within the past few months …

He launched Office for iPad, even though a touch version of Office still isn’t available for Windows 8. Releasing Office for iPad before Windows 8 was actually Ballmer’s decision, but Nadella used the launch as his first public appearance.

He made his master plan clear: Microsoft software will power all sorts of devices through services and apps.

He let two top managers go because they reportedly weren’t “all in” with him as CEO. He promoted Chris Capossela, previous top marketing guy for Microsoft Office, to become the top marketing guy in the company. The next day, we learned that Microsoft ended its “Scroogled” ad campaign bashing Google.

Next up, Nadella still has big problems to fix …

He’s got to make people love Windows 8.

He’s got to make people love Windows Phone 8.

He’s got to keep Google from eating Microsoft’s lunch with Google Apps and Chromebooks.

He’s got to deal with the integration of Nokia.

Failing that, he’s got to come up with new operating systems and mobile devices that people do want.

He’s got to transition enterprise customers from old-school packaged software to the cloud, without gutting his cash-cow enterprise businesses of Microsoft Office, Windows Server, the SQL Server database, Microsoft Exchange, and so on.

He’s also got to revamp the enterprise sales team to align with Microsoft’s new attitude and new goals.

Microsoft announces multi-device hybrid mobile applications

posted May 16, 2014, 3:09 AM by Chandan Datta

Microsoft has to convince app developers to write for Windows, not just iOS and Android, in order to sell more devices.

This week during its developer conference, the company unveiled a grand strategy to break the stalemate. It announced a plan to deliver what’s known as the “Holy Grail” of app development: write the app once and it runs on everything, Windows 8 devices, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, iOS and Android.

Microsoft’s plan consisted of lots of new development software, updates to existing software and new features in its app-hosting cloud Azure. Plus, Microsoft also launched a new software foundation that will bring even more “Holy Grail” tools to app developers, for free.

Apache Cordova

Next, Microsoft has released a preview of Visual Studio tooling support for Apache Cordova, an open source platform for building multi-device hybrid mobile applications using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Most notably, Cordova includes support for Android and iOS, as well as support for Windows and Windows Phone thanks to Microsoft’s contributions to the project.

Microsoft lists five advantages for developing these hybrid apps:

  • Code Editor: These app take advantage of all the code editing features in Visual Studio such as IntelliSense, syntax highlighting, and many other features are available for HTML, CSS, JavaScript or TypeScript web projects.
  • Building UX: Multi-Device Hybrid App interfaces can be built using various open-source front-end frameworks such as Angular, Bootstrap, Backbone, Underscore, and WinJS (samples will be made available at TechEd).
  • Debugger: Set breakpoints, inspect performance issues, analyze memory usage, and perform other debugging and diagnostics tasks on Android 4.4 and Windows Store.
  • iOS – Remote Agent: A remote agent can be used on a Mac to enable building for iOS right from Visual Studio. The agent can also launch the iOS Simulator on the Mac.
  • Integrating with Services: Microsoft services that speed up development for mobile apps can be integrated into these apps through the Service Manager and NuGet.

The Cordova tools in Visual Studio support end-to-end development of cross-platform mobile applications, meaning Web developers can use their existing skills to create hybrid packaged apps for multiple devices while still taking advantage of each device’s capabilities. In fact, Microsoft is offering templates for both JavaScript and TypeScript to provide a standard blank Cordova starter project. Developers can pick their HTML/JavaScript framework of choice, including Backbone and jQuery UI, Angular.js and Bootstrap, or WinJS.

Projects can be built, deployed, and debugged directly in Visual Studio against a variety of devices, device emulators, and Web-based mobile simulators. The default option is to use the Apache Ripple simulator to test your application in the browser before deploying to a device.

That being said, the preview also supports attaching the Visual Studio debugger to Ripple as well as a local emulator or a device. In other words, you can stay in Visual Studio while debugging your JavaScript and DOM layout running on an Android 4.4 device.

Microsoft seems most excited that developers will be able to use Visual Studio to develop, test, and launch a Cordova app directly on an Android device or iOS device. The company isn’t hiding that its goal is to turn Visual Studio into the best tool for creating multi-device apps across Android, iOS, Windows, and Windows Phone. Microsoft already offers the option of native apps powered by .NET and Xamarin, but now it is also pushing into the world of standards-based development provided by the Apache Cordova platform to further its push for helping build apps that share a large amount of code across devices.

1-3 of 3