As has been previously revealed, apps can now set the lock screen background image. But while the Windows RT device is locked, Angel said, Windows 8.1 users should also be able to at least respond to incoming Skype calls from the lock screen, without having to input a password, unlock the PC, and accept the call. The LockScreenCallActivatedEventArgs API class should also display information about the call.
Although not everyone wants to take pictures with his tablet (does anyone?), the new 8.1 APIs support low-lag picture-taking, which, as Angel notes, could be used for two things. First, a low-lag camera could be used to eliminate shutter delay—the time between when the shutter button is clicked and when the picture is actually recorded. Second, the low-lag feature could be used to take a few, quick shots that could be stitched together. Shooting a few shots at different exposures and then digitally combining them is the basis for high-dynamic-range (HDR) photography, which Windows 8.1 could support.
Metro apps will also now be able to read and write to the camera roll, saved pictures and playlists, Angel wrote.
Support for new devices
Scanners might not be the sexiest of devices, but they were a hole in Windows 8's vaunted driver support. In general, drivers tend to be provided by the manufacturer themselves, not built inside the OS. But that should change with the release of Windows 8.1. Using the new Windows.Devices.Scanners namespace, apps can automate scanning and customizing documents from flatbed and feeder scanners, Angel wrote.
Enterprise users should also benefit from the additional support of smart cards, used for both mobile payment systems and for identification purposes. Windows 8.1 even supports the destruction of those cards. (Don't lose your PIN!) The new OS also includes an API called ClaimedBarcodeScanner.DataRecieved, which Angel says will allow support for both magnetic-stripe readers and barcode scanners.
The Windows 8.1 APIs also now indicate support for both Bluetooth 4.0 as well as Bluetooth Low Energy devices. Angel found support for both the RfComm bluetooth protocol and GATT Bluetooth profile, which are the core of Bluetooth 4.0 support.
Finally, Angel says that Windows 8.1 will support "any" USB or IO device.
"One of the big limitations of Win8 WinRT apps is their lack of ability to interact with connected and built-in devices unless previously exposed by WinRT," Angel writes. "It seems that's about to change in Windows 8.1 with the introduction of the new Windows.Devices.Usb and Windows.Devices.Custom namespaces. Both of these namespace provide IOutputStream and IInputStream to any USB or IO device. It's fair to assume it'll be heavily gated by permissions, but it's still a great feature that opens up new avenues for Win8.1 apps."
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