With the small matter of naming a new CEO out of the way, Microsoft can now shift attention to remaining matters that require attention. Remaining matters that are all centered on Windows, the company’s flagship product.
BUILD 2014 is set to take place at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, between April 2 and 4.
And in the meantime we have been hearing all sorts of reports and rumors about the bucket load of announcements Microsoft is preparing for the event. This event, headlined by CEO Satya Nadella (and hopefully Bill Gates) should provide us our first looks at Windows 8.1 Update 1 and Windows Phone 8.1.
Here is what we know, so far, about these two products:
While the name sounds a mouthful, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is the next major (some would say minor) refresh of the newest version of the operating system. The main idea appears to be making the Windows 8.1 a bit more user friendly for keyboard and mouse users.
The good old taskbar comes squarely into focus in Windows 8.1 Update 1, with jumplists and multiple thumbnails for Metro apps. There is also the ability to pin Modern UI apps on the taskbar, undoubtedly paving way for these apps to run on desktop in Windows 9.
Along with the taskbar in action, there is news that Update 1 boots to desktop by default, has better display scaling options, comes with a disk space feature in PC settings, and will require all official rollups to be installed before it can be deployed. Oh, and it could be released in the MSU format.
Taking all this into account, and it becomes clear that this is more of a refinement release, one that adds polish to the operating system. Sure, keeping in mind the time Update 1 is taking, Microsoft could have a few surprises prepared for us. We should find out soon.
Luckily, the list of changes for Windows Phone 8.1 is a fair bit more stretched. No surprises here, considering that this is a major upgrade of the mobile OS, also quite a delayed one — this was originally on track for release alongside Windows 8.1 in October last year.
Delays and more delays led to this being pushed well into the mid of this year. However, there is every chance that Redmond will talk about Windows Phone 8.1 (also known as Windows Phone Blue) in detail at the upcoming BUILD developer conference. In fact, there is no other way around it.
For starters, we already know that the Notification Center is to be a very big part of this update. And as some recently leaked screenshots show, it is shaping up to be a very crisp and well-designed new addition. There is also talk of large Live Tiles and the keyboard having Swype-like abilities. Or powers.
Another big new addition is the voice assistant (codenamed Cortana), that is going to be powered by Foursquare. A dedicated file manager is a highly requested feature, but it appears that Microsoft has no plans for it right now. We should find out more when the update rolls out sometimes in Q2 this year.
A third showcase could well be some new hardware like 4G LTE powered Surface tablets or even a Surface Mini. However, rumors about these potential new devices have died down, at least as of this writing. But then again, it does not take all that long for talk to start up these days.
For now, though the formula is simple — refine Windows 8.1 further, while giving Windows Phone 8 a packed new addition of the most requested features. Sounds like a plan.
You don’t always need a thermodynamic miracle!