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Windows 10 for phones: A change in name, but not in core features

Mark Hachman | Jan. 23, 2015
The most important change may be the name: Windows Phone has vanished in favor of Windows 10. But aside from some iterative changes to apps, change does not seem to be a-coming.

Windows Phone is dead. Long live Windows 10. And right now, there's not that much else to get excited about aside from new flagship phones, which Microsoft execs promised will debut this fall.

If Windows 10 is an iterative upgrade to Windows 8, then Windows 10 for phones feels even more so. I think the best way to view Windows 10's direction, both in mobile devices as well as the desktop, is not so much straight ahead, but laterally: closer together, with each Windows device becoming a more cohesive part of the whole.

But that leaves what we've seen of Windows 10 a bit bland by comparison, if you're looking for new features.

"As Terry [Myerson] mentioned, during the time that Windows 10 rolls out, we're going to have a new category of devices, including new flagship devices," Ifi Majid, head of experiences marketing for Microsoft's Devices Group, said in a group interview. "So we're really excited about that. Watch this space."

Why this matters: Microsoft faces a bit of a challenge here that it seems to be addressing head on. In the recent past, Microsoft embraced the limitations of individual platforms, designing apps optimized for each one. This seems to be a design strategy that Microsoft is discarding in favor of universal apps that simply reorient and "flow" into the different size constraints of various phones, tablets, and PCs.

Beyond the keynote--in which Joe Belfiore showed off a nicely organized array of Windows 10 live tiles--Microsoft demonstrated just a few of its new Windows 10 for phones features in a breakout session on Wednesday afternoon. And, really, Microsoft didn't show off the OS itself, but what it was working towards in the individual Maps, Skype and messaging, Photos, and Outlook apps. At least the Insider program will be able to take advantage of the new Windows 10 OS for phones in February; a final release date is unknown.

Unity, for example, is the name of the game with the new Windows 10 Maps app, which will be the same for all Windows devices, according to Microsoft executives. Bing Maps will be plundered for its rich search results, Streetside views, and 3D imagery, and combined with navigation features. With a tap on a location, users can see the aerial view or the surrounding traffic. Rich search results are pre-populated with common search terms (e.g., "coffee") and search results yield Yelp reviews and the ability to book reservations via OpenTable.

Messaging and Skype
Phone calls, SMS messages, Skype messages, and Skype calls all somewhat overlap. With Windows 10, Microsoft hopes to make a bit more sense out of the rats' nest of these redundant communications. 


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