Microsoft Plans Windows, Phone Updates for Spring

 

By Anick Jesdanun

BARCELONA, Spain -- Microsoft (MSFT) will update its Windows system this spring to address some of the gripes people have had when they use devices without touch capabilities.

Windows 8 and last fall's 8.1 update were designed for a touch environment. But some of the gesture commands don't translate well when using traditional mouse and keyboard controls.

Among other things, Microsoft will add search, power and settings buttons to the Start page, so that users don't have to figure out how to pull those functions like a sock drawer from the right. There also will be easier, touch-free ways to close apps.

Microsoft is also updating its Windows Phone system this spring to work better in corporate environments and to bring features desired in fast-growing emerging markets.

The announcement came Sunday before the Mobile World Congress wireless show in Barcelona.

Many of the changes are geared at reducing manufacturing costs.

In essence, Microsoft is relaxing hardware requirements. For instance, there will no longer be a requirement that phones have a physical camera button and three control buttons on the front. That can be done through software instead, the approach used in many Android phones. Meanwhile, tablets and personal computers won't need as much memory and storage as before.

Microsoft is also allowing phones to support two SIM cards, something in demand in China, India and other emerging markets where prices and plans vary so much that people switch services constantly for the best deals. For developed markets, Microsoft plans improvements for corporations, including VPN support on phones that will let people access work networks securely.

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