Microsoft announced updates to Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8 that will ship to users this spring.
At a Microsoft reception at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Sunday, Windows Phone product head Joe Belfiore announced that Windows 8.1 will be getting an update that will make the operating system later this year. The update will make Windows 8.1 easier to use for non-touch screen devices that rely on a mouse and keyboard.
Microsoft realized that many users that did not have a touchscreen Windows 8.1 device had a frustrating experience. Belfiore noted that 40% of Windows 8 devices sold in the United States are touchscreen devices, which is good but leaves a large portion of users with devices not optimized to a mouse-and-keyboard experience. The Windows 8.1 update will have a discoverable search, power and settings coming to the Start menu for non-touch devices. A new app switching and launching user experience will be integrated for mouse users as well.
That being said, Microsoft is still well focused on touch devices while make it easier for mouse and keyboard users.
“We love touch. None of the work that we are doing in this Windows update is in anyway degrading the touch experience,” said Belfiore, Microsoft’s VP of operating systems.
Microsoft will also give manufacturers new hardware options for Windows 8.1. The coming software update will lower Windows 8.1 requirements to be as low as 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB of storage. The goal is to have manufacturers make more affordable Windows 8 devices for the lower end of the market.
For the enterprise market, Windows 8.1 will have an update for the Internet Explorer browser. Microsoft said that there will be a new compatibility mode for Internet Explorer 8 (the default version that shipped with Windows 7) for the Internet Explorer 11 browser that comes with Windows 8.
Windows Phone Update Coming In Spring
Microsoft also announced an upcoming update to Windows Phone. Microsoft’s ambition is to get many more device manufacturers to build Windows Phone outside of its primary partner Nokia. Microsoft is partnering with Qualcomm to release a design reference for Windows Phone and a website hub for manufacturers that guides manufacturers through the building process.
“We are open for business on Windows Phone. What’s new about this is that we are open to Windows Phone to anyone that wants to build a Windows Phone,” said Nick Parker, head of manufacturer relationships for Microsoft.
The upcoming Windows Phone update will include updates to enterprise capabilities with new enterprise W-Fi and other security and management capabilities. Windows Phone will also be able to support Dual-SIM capabilities.
Belfiore also announced that Facebook Messenger will come to the Windows Phone Marketplace.
The change to Windows Phone will allow manufacturers to use the same type of hardware that they would use for similar Android phones. That includes Qualcomm Snapdragion 200/400/400 LTE processors. Microsoft announced that it has partnered with a variety of global manufacturers including LG, ZTE, Karbonn, JSR, XOLO, LongCheer, Gionee, Lenovo and Foxconn.