Microsoft has made a string of major product announcements, including the release of a new flagship smartphone, a competitor to Apple’s Siri and upgrades to Windows for both phones and desktops, during the first day of its Build developer conference.
A key announcement was a major upgrade to the company’s smartphone operating system, called Windows Phone 8.1, that adds a Google Android-style settings and notifications menu called the “Action Centre”.
The new release also introduces a Siri-style assistant feature, similar to Apple’s Siri or Google now, called Cortana, which is powered by Bing and includes a viewable and editable “notebook” that compiles a list of the users’ interests.
The release also separates out the apps used to view music, video and podcasts.
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Other key features include the introduction of personalised backgrounds for live tiles, improved Skype integration, an improved calendar, and the ability to view a smartphone’s screen on a PC when it’s connected by USB.
In a significant move for the company, like Google’s Android smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8.1 will be available to hardware manufacturers free of charge.
In previous version of Windows Phone, Microsoft charged hardware manufacturers a fee of between $US5 and $US10 for the use of its operating system.
Along with the new smartphone announcement, the company announced a new flagship Windows Phone device, known as the Lumia 930, along with the lower-end Lumia 630/635.
The Lumia 930 is a 4G/LTE smartphone powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 2.2 GHz quad-core processor and comes preinstalled with Windows Phone 8.1.
It includes a 5-inch ClearBlack OLED Full HD display with a resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, and a pixel desnity of 441-ppi.
Other key features include a 20-megapixel PureView camera, capable of 1080p video at 30 frames per second at Full HD resolution.
It also includes a 2420 mAh battery, 2 gigabytes RAM, 32 gigabytes storage along with 7 gigabytes of free OneDrive cloud storage, but no support for microSD.
Windows 8.1 Update
The company also announced an upgrade to the desktop version of Windows 8.1, with called Windows 8.1 Update, with key feature improvements and a new developer platform.
The update sees improvements to mouse and keyboard handling, with a close and minimise button appearing when you drag your mouse to the top of a Windows Store app, the taskbar appearing at the bottom, and the ability to get a contextual menu by right-cliking in the Start screen.
In a statement, senior marketing communications manager Brandon LeBlanc also describes new features for businesses looking to deploy a mobile device management solution.
“We are introducing several key improvements for businesses such as Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE) and extended Mobile Device Management (MDM). EMIE enables Internet Explorer 8 compatibility on Internet Explorer 11 so companies can run existing web-based apps seamlessly on Windows 8.1 devices.
“And with extended MDM, we are introducing additional policy settings that can be managed with whatever MDM solution an enterprise chooses including whitelisting or blacklisting Windows Store apps and websites.”