Microsoft is refreshing its smartphone operating system with a slew of new, productivity-boosting features. It's dubbed simply Windows 10 – just like its desktop counterpart -- and it will replace the current Windows Phone 8.1 operating system later this year on compatible devices. It shares much of its predecessor's DNA, while introducing a revamped interface, updated apps and new ways to integrate with Windows 10 PCs and tablets.
Sure, Windows Phone devices are pretty rare in a market dominated by iOS and Android, but the platform is actually pretty solid, with some good exclusive features for business users. And Windows 10 for phones refines the formula, so it's certainly worth a look.
At this point, details on the release date for the OS update haven't yet been announced. While we wait, read on for seven features that make could make it better for work.
Microsoft's big aim with Windows 10 is to make a single unified operating system that works across all device categories, from smartphones to desktop PCs. The company is bridging the divide with a universal app store for all Windows 10 devices. That means the Outlook email app you use on your smartphone will function the same as the desktop version – because it's actually the same app. Apps will have context-sensitive interface changes, however; the email app displays a persistent sidebar only on bigger screens, for example. Otherwise, your apps will be integrated, so when you dismiss or flag emails on your phone, those actions will be reflected on your PC immediately. Integrated apps are a big step up from the old, fragmented approach.
Free Office suite
Speaking of universal apps, Windows 10 for phones will come with a new, touch-friendly version of the Microsoft Office suite installed for free. A demo of the apps – which include Word, PowerPoint and Excel -- revealed a touch-based interface, with big buttons that are easy to tap. You can toggle different views of the Office ribbon for formatting, editing and so on. Meanwhile, PowerPoint has a touch-friendly menu for adding effects and transitions to your presentations.
The Outlook app is getting some attention, too, with new touch-based navigation options. For example, you can now swipe messages to flag or delete them. The Outlook calendar was also redesigned with a colorful interface and pinch-to-zoom functionality, so you can easily zoom out to view a monthly or yearly view.
Windows 10 can also sync your alerts and messages between your smartphone and PC. It works via the new desktop Action Center, which funnels notifications to your computer so you can view and act on them immediately. For example, the messaging app will let you fire off a quick reply to an incoming text, right on your computer. That way you can spend less time fiddling with your phone and more time working.
Windows 10 has a few new features for anyone who uses Skype, Microsoft's videoconferencing service, for work. For starters, Skype functionality is built right into the operating system, to make it easier to start a new video call on your smartphone. Plus, text messages sent via the Skype app will now be integrated with your main messaging app, so you can read and reply to all your messages in one spot.
Built-in Miracast functionality will let mobile Windows 10 users wirelessly beam slideshows, videos and other presentation material to a large TV or monitor, without cords or projectors. That could come in handy during those morning meetings.
Microsoft is also prepping a new Web browser to replace Internet Explorer in Windows 10. The app, tentatively dubbed Project Spartan, will run on smartphones as well as tablets and desktop PCs. Not much is known about it yet, but Microsoft has revealed that it features a slick new, touch-friendly interface. It also lets you take notes directly on Web pages, then capture a screenshot in OneNote or fire it off in an email.