Microsoft announced Sunday at Mobile World Congress a series of moves that it hopes will increase the popularity of Windows 8/8.1 and Windows Phone.
Windows 8, which Microsoft launched in late 2012, was a radical overhaul of Windows’ user interface design, mashing into one operating system both the traditional desktop user interface and a new tile-based user interface designed to work well on touch devices.
The problem was many users of traditional mouse-and-keyboard — i.e. non-touch — devices found Windows 8 annoying to use.
A new update coming this spring for Windows 8.1 is designed to make the platform friendlier for those using non-touch devices.
Among the features coming in the update:
- Search control, a power button and settings will be added to the Start screen.
- Right clicking on a tile will bring up a context menu, rather than the app bar that comes up at the bottom of the screen in touch devices.
- When Windows Store apps are open, a title bar on top with a close button will display so users will know how to exit those apps.
“We love touch,” Joe Belfiore, who works on the Windows phone, tablet and PC platforms, said in a video posted on the Windows Phone Blog. “But we think we can improve the situation for all those mouse-and-keyboard users.”
Belfiore also said the company is also bringing its hardware requirements down to allow its manufacturing partners to build lower-cost devices. The upcoming Windows 8.1 update will enable partners to build devices with just 1 GB of RAM and 16 GB storage, he said.
(Along the lines of allowing manufacturers to produce lower-cost devices, Microsoft is reportedly reducing the price of Windows 8.1 by 70 percent — charging $15 instead of $50 — for makers of devices that sell for less than $250, according to a Bloomberg report.)
Belfiore also announced Sunday several new hardware partners for Windows Phone, including Lenovo, LG, ZTE, Foxconn, Gionee, JSR, Karbonn, Lava (Xolo), and Longcheer. (HTC, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung are already Windows Phone partners.)