Microsoft has been lagging behind Apple and Google when it comes to delivering a full featured operating system for their smartphones and phablets. While other major competitors have concentrated on developing specific features tailored to smaller devices, Microsoft has been content to offer only truncated versions of their primary operating systems on their phones and tablets. But as the phablet phenomenon continues unabated, Microsoft has finally decided to up their game. With Windows 10, Microsoft will offer consumers a full featured operating system specifically designed for smartphones, phablets and tablets.
Windows 10 to Replace Windows Phone
Microsoft is quietly putting its old Windows Phone OS to bed. Come July and August, consumers will now have access to Windows 10 for more than just their laptops and PCs. Microsoft intends to launch Windows 10 for smartphones and tablets as well, and the operating system will be specifically optimized to run on devices with screens that are 8 inches or smaller. Microsoft has made it clear that Windows 10 will be a full featured, cross platform, operating system designed to run on all manner of devices. This is major step for Microsoft, and one they hope will improve their current market share. With that in mind, let’s look at some of what Windows 10 has to offer smartphone users.
Start Screen and Navigation
The Windows 10 start screen looks much like the old Windows Phone 8. So the tiles motif has been held over to the latest upgrade. We assume that users will be able to customize the start up menu as needed. Freshly downloaded apps still appear at the top of the start screen, and as always the background image can be customized.
The Action Center gets a PC-like make over, and is designed to sync with the owner’s home PC or laptop. Action buttons can be expanded or reduced, and the new syncing feature makes it easy to dismiss notifications across all of your devices with a single swipe. The Settings Menu has also been streamlined to incorporate a formerly separate Control Panel, eliminating confusion and simplifying tasks.
With Windows 10, Microsoft will debut their new Spartan Browser. Spartan offers a clean minimalist interface, and includes three major features that mark it as a definite improvement over the existing Internet Explorer. First, Spartan supports PDFs, making reading easier on hand held devices. Reading features can be personalized, and users can create reading lists that can be shared across all supported devices. Second, Users will be able to mark up articles on the web, and add comments prior to sharing them. Finally, Microsoft has incorporated Cortana into Spartan, to make it faster and easier to find information on the web.
Messaging features have been greatly improved with Windows 10. First, and foremost, Windows 10 now integrates Skype into all of its calling features. The Word Flow Keyboard has been improved, making texting easier. Users can also choose to bypass the Word Flow Keyboard, replying to messages by shape writing or through voice input. The new microphone is fairly sophisticated, and can recognize names, punctuation and hashtags.
With Windows 10, Microsoft will now be offering Universal Apps that are designed to operate on all Windows 10 devices. These Universal apps will be tailored to fit screen size. A selection of Universal Apps will be built into all Windows 10 devices from smartphone to PC, including Office, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. A new version of Outlook Mail will also be included on all devices, with the full Word engine built into the email application.
Price and Release Date
Windows 10 for phones will begin beta testing in February, with a general launch expected sometime around July or August. Initially, the Windows 10 upgrade will be free for all devices running Windows Phone 8.1. Following the initial upgrade, Microsoft promises to keep smartphones and phablets up to date for the lifetime of the devices. Their intention appears to be to treat Windows 10 as a service rather than as software.
Microsoft has consistently lagged behind its two biggest rivals, Apple and Google. With only 3% of the world’s smartphones running Windows operating systems, they clearly have a way to go to catch up with the competition. With Windows 10, and its cross platform appeal, Microsoft hopes to attract new customers and increase their overall market share. Only time will tell if Windows 10 is enough to make Microsoft a real contender in the smartphone and phablet market.