In June 2010, Microsoft Taiwan announced the establishment of its Software and Services Excellence Center (SSEC). Since then, the SSEC has been endeavoring to develop natural user interfaces (NUI) for various smart cloud devices. Six months later, Microsoft Taiwan hosted a smart cloud platform and application development symposium, sharing the progress of its cooperation with Taiwan's academia and business partners as well as government organizations for the development of cloud devices, cloud servers, and relevant applications and services over the past six months.
According to Microsoft Taiwan, the mission of the SSEC is to make good use of Microsoft's years of experience in software, service, and cloud datacenter R&D, its forward-looking software technology, as well as Taiwan's global leadership in hardware R&D to help Taiwan partners develop new generation smart end-user devices and cloud datacenters to create new business opportunities.
Over the past six months, the SSEC has worked with 20 Taiwan academia, business, and R&D partners and had 20 projects implemented.
For example, Microsoft Taiwan and Sinyi Realty have together developed House View 2.0 service, which is unprecedented in Taiwan. House View 2.0, which runs on Windows 7 tablets with real-time video integrated, helps Sinyi customers understand house layouts and the latest status on the offerings that they are interested in while enabling real-time interaction with Sinyi salespeople.
Next let's see the convenient software services that Microsoft Taiwan provides to Taiwan businesses to help them win in the forthcoming era of cloud computing.
Attractive cloud services should cater to user demand for convenience, and should provide a friendly human-machine interface, in particular, the touch-control interface that is becoming increasingly important in the marketplace.
According to Limin Zhang, a senior consultant for Microsoft Taiwan, nowadays we are getting much more used to touch control and there is a certain demand for multi-touch control, especially for web browsing, accessing audio-visual files, and entertainment such as game playing.
Touch control for more intuitive operation
Multi-touch control is becoming increasingly popular among computer users because it enables more intuitive operation. For example, map browsing can directly use fingers for drag and pull to move the map, and use the thumb and index finger for pinch and stretch for map zoom-in and out. This is definitely more intuitive than shift and tab.
In addition, multi-touch control helps enhance business productivity. For example, if factory workers have to wear thick gloves for a long time and it is inconvenient for them to use any keyboard and mouse, touch-control devices will definitely enhance their effectiveness and efficiency.
Then, is it difficult to develop the touch-control applications that meet user needs? How should this be done?
It is Limin Zhang''s recommendation that, when selecting programming tools, developers should factor in whether a development platform can be easily accessed, whether a touch-control interface facilitates implementing different tasks, whether various gestures are supported, and whether the applications running on the development platform and supporting support touch control will increase.
Windows 7 touch-control development tools: WPF 4.0 and Silverlight
According to Limin Zhang, Windows 7 is touch control ready because Microsoft provides built-in multi-touch/gesture-control tools, such as WPF 4.0, for the development of various touch-control applications. Since the Windows 7 launch, there have been more and more applications for even easier multi-touch control on the operating system.
"Windows applications are different from other software tools," said Zhang. "They do not need any gesture API for the window interface to support touch-control applications such as size adjustment, but gesture APIs can also be utilized to develop more diverse and natural interfaces such as rotation zoom-in and out, and reverse." In addition to the basic applications as aforementioned, APIs help design operating methods that are even more convenient and even more cool.
In terms of Windows 7 touch-control development tools, WPF 4.0 with multi-touch gesture control and inertia built in is an option, and Silverlight that only supports single-touch control is another, but no further programming for multi-touch control is required when Silverlight is used because Expression Blend 4.0 adds multi-touch control and inertia to objectives.
"Windows is better than other development platforms because of its built-in touch control," said Zhang. "No further programming is required because Windows development tools enable easy development of even more convenient human-machine interfaces."
Easy development of Windows Phone 7 touch-control applications
Microsoft also provides Silverlight and XNA, which are development tools of multi-touch gesture control for Windows Phone 7. According to Zhang, Windows Phone 7 supports not only four-point touch control but also single- and multi-touch control such as tap, double tap, pan, flick, touch and stretch, and pinch and stretch.
However, not any object on Windows Phone 7 is touch controllable, and developers should pay attention to three issues:
1. Touch-control objects: Touch-control objects should be visible to users, not be smaller than nine millimeters (or 34 square pixels), and the space between touchable touch-control widgets should be at least two millimeters (or eight square pixels). Under special circumstances, a widget can be smaller but cannot be smaller than seven millimeters (or 26 square pixels). Moreover, a touch-control object should be larger than a touch-control element, while a touch-control element should not be more than 60% smaller than a touch-control object.
2. Touch-control elements: Touch-control elements make touch-control objects visible to users.
3. Touch-control widgets: Touch-control widgets combine touch-control elements into touch-control objects.
According to Zhang, on the Windows Phone 7 platform developers can select Silverlight or XNA that work with mobile phone and PC application development tools to develop various gesture-touch control applications such as Button, Slider, List Box, Panorama, and Pivot.
"As long as developers understand Panorama and Pivot design standards, they will be able to easily develop Panorama and Pivot gesture controls on Windows Phone 7," said Zhang.
Limin Zhang, senior consultant, Microsoft Taiwan
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