There’s a ridiculous amount of new features coming in Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8 operating systems. Sadly, not many of them are entertainment related.
Microsoft detailed both updates to its flagship operating systems during its BUILD keynote this morning in San Francisco. Of the two, Windows 8.1 Update 1 is the most lean. Users of the Windows 8 software that runs on millions of notebooks, tablets and desktops can expect a few key changes to make life better for keyboard and tablet users. New devices without a touchscreen will automatically boot into the desktop going forward. Use can also expect Windows 8.1 to allow them to pin Windows Store apps directly to their Start Screen. Finally, Microsoft has added Power and Search buttons to the Start Screen itself so that users don’t have to go digging around for it.
Unfortunately, the company didn’t announce any sweeping changes to its Xbox Music and Xbox Video. To be fair it just announced that Xbox Video would allow users to stream video content on different devices and pick up where they left off earlier this week. Microsoft says users should expect a Windows 8.1 Update 1 notification to arrive on their machines on April 8th. It’ll be free when it does.
Windows Phone 8.1, the upcoming free update for Windows Phone 8 devices has a bit more to offer entertainment seekers. For starters, Microsoft seems to have finally ended its big experiment with hubs. The company has gone and killed the Music + Video app in the Windows Phone 8.1 update and replaced it with Music and Video apps that are updated separately from the operating system itself. In theory, this means that users can expect the Xbox Music app to evolve a lot faster than it has thus far. Microsoft has also broken out FM radio functionality and podcasts into separate apps. There’s even a separate volume system so that podcast listeners and music lovers don’t turn down the volume on their Windows Phone 8.1 device only to miss a phone call because they forgot to turn it back up.
Outside of entertainment, Windows Phone 8.1 is a huge update. The company has added a new gesture keyboard that allows users to type entire sentences without lifting their finger. With the update, users will be able to customize their lock screen and add a background to their live tiles. Microsoft is even throwing in the option for users to load media and apps directly to an SD card and a control their entire device with a voice assistant that borrows the name and voice of Halo’s Cortana.
Windows Phone developers should expect the Windows Phone 8.1 update on their devices sometime this month. The update will roll out to all Windows Phone users some time this summer.