If you are Windows Phone user, there were some notable news this week with the release of Bing News, Weather, Sports, and Finance apps. Xbox One features are also getting better with some new announcements taking place this week. On top of all that, a Windows 8.1 build 9471 was leaked. This is yet another series in our “notable news of the week”, highlighting what you might have missed during this week.
Windows Phone notable news of the week
Windows Phone App Studio: With more than 160,000 app in the Marketplace, the available number of mobile apps for Microsoft’s mobile operating system, Windows Phone, has been constantly growing the past three years since its first release. While Microsoft’s effort to attract more developers are starting to pay off, especially with their initiative to use some of the same core technologies found in Windows 8, they are not staying idle.
This week, Microsoft introduced a new program called Windows Phone App Studio with the aim to attract even more developers. Currently, developers can only use Visual Studio to develop apps for Windows Phone. Unlike Visual Studio, the new Windows Phone App studio is a web-based app creation tool that will allow anyone to develop apps even with the minimal software development skills. The new tool is already available and optimized only for Internet Explorer 10.
While Microsoft’s effort to boost the number of apps available in the Windows Phone Marketplace with this new program is certainly welcomed, we are also hoping that Microsoft would focus on getting more new apps in the marketplace. With a recent report indicating that 64% of the top 100 apps available for iOS are already available for Windows Phone users, maybe Microsoft should focus on getting 100% of the top 100 available on iOS and Android to Windows Phone. Making new apps available is a good incentive to sway users towards Windows Phone, but making available apps that are the most used is probably much more important.
New App released: Talking about app, if you are a regular Windows 8 an Windows RT users, you have probably used some of the core apps (Bing New, Weather, Finance, Sports) that came pre-installed with the new operating system. This week, Microsoft has released these same app for Windows Phone. These new apps, optimized for the Windows Phone environment, offer the same experience that have been available with it’s Windows 8 operating system sibling. I have been using the apps since they were released and they are pretty useful and aligned to the Metro/Modern user interface guideline. If you are a current Windows Phone user, you should get these apps.
GDR2 and GDR3 Updates:While Microsoft is working hard to boost the number of available apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, releasing featured-updates is another area where the software giant is also focusing its effort. Windows Phone has been heavily criticized for the lack of prevalent features on other platforms such as the lack of a notification center. This week, the GDR2 update, which Microsoft promised to bring new features and improvement, is starting to be available for certain users. In fact, if you are using the recently-released Window Phone 8 devices like the Nokia Lumia 1020 and 925, this update comes pre-installed with the device. There have been reports that several carriers are already releasing the update to users starting this week also. If you are wondering what new features come with this update, there are lots of improvement. Data Sense is now widely available since it was only available for selected devices depending on the carriers, a fix for the other storage bug, and the return of FM radio. There are other features that are manufactured-based such the flip to silence, the Glance Screen that will only be available for Nokia phones. Check out these new features here.
While the GDR2 update was probably the most notable Windows Phone news this week, there are already chatters about the next update for Windows Phone, called GDR3. According to a post on Reddit, some of the improvements that will be included on this next update is orientation lock and an improved switcher. We already know that Microsoft, with the GDR3 update, will usher support for higher hardware specifications such as screen with higher resolution and quad-core processors. I guess will have to wait to see but in the meantime, we hope that we can enjoy the improvements that GDR2 brings.
Xbox One notable news
Xbox One unboxing video & old features return: Microsoft, this week, released the very first unboxing video of their next generation gaming console. While there have been rumors about what would be included with the Xbox One, it was a welcome news to see the Chat headset will be also included at no extra charge. When the software giant released the Xbox One the very first time, the Chat headset was not included with the console. Users were expecting to have the Kinect sensor and one controller. Now with the unboxing video, it is confirmed that the Chat headset will be in the box. I guess Microsoft is doing everything to assuage early mistakes with some good news.
Another good news this week is the introduction of Home Gold which is an extension of the Xbox Live Gold subscription to other people. So, if you are an Xbox Live Gold subscriber, you will be able to share your Xbox Live Gold subscription with other people that are signed in the same console whether you are using your own console or theirs. This feature was part of the original plan that Microsoft described for the Xbox One unveiling. Also, you will able to share your digital game on the same console. If you purchase a game, other people that are signed into the same console will be able to play the game even if they did not purchase the game with their Xbox Live account. You will also be able to access the same game on someone else’s console as long as you are signed in with your account.
It is very promising to see Microsoft bringing back some of the features that were promised on the first unveiling of the Xbox One. Although many people have described Microsoft’s action as backtracking, it is definitely to the consumers’ benefits that Microsoft is bringing back all the features instead of sticking to its plan to remove the features. These past two weeks have brought good news for future Xbox One users, we wonder what Microsoft will announce next week. Maybe the inclusion of two controllers (we can always wish).
Windows 8.1, Window RT notable news
Even before Microsoft made Windows RT devices available to consumers, many of OEM partners were not shy from expressing their dissatisfaction with Microsoft decision to get in the business of making Windows-based hardware especially with Windows RT. With such attitude, it was in fact a very easy decision for Asus to dump the Windows RT as a platform citing to a lack of success. This week Asus made it clear that they will be scaling back on making Windows RT based devices. Asus plan going forward is to focus on more on making Windows 8 devices with bigger screen sizes.
Now with this major OEM abandoning Windows RT as a platform, you may wonder what Microsoft’s future plan is for the fledgling OS, especially after a nearly billion dollar write off for the Surface brand. Well, it seems that Microsoft is already working on the next iteration of its Surface according to Jen Hsun who indicated that his company is working hard for the Surface RT 2. On the software side, which was mostly the most criticized part of Windows RT, Microsoft is already promising a better experience with Windows 8.1. This includes several improvements of the core apps like the mail app, and the inclusion of Outlook RT. With report that sale of the Surface has picked up steam, we wonder if the right price and software improvements is what the Surface RT really needs to finally take off. What do you think?
With another Windows 8.1 build leak this week, it seems that Windows 8.1 is really closed to hitting RTM. There are reports that the RTM will be sent very soon to OEM. We have also posted a hands-on video of the new leak.
Until next week!Further reading: Windows 8, Windows Phone, Xbox One