Microsoft March Madness: 5 Stories To Watch
All of these have made news in recent days, and to help you start March with a heaping helping of Microsoft, here are five of the biggest narratives to follow.
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1. Windows Phone 8 makes progress while Microsoft commits to a smartphone upgrade path.
Microsoft senior marketing manager Greg Sullivan remarked during last week's Mobile World Congress that Redmond will provide an upgrade path for Windows Phone 8. Given that the mobile OS only debuted last October, the existence of such a path might have been taken for granted. Microsoft did not provide a method for Windows Phone 7 users to trade up, however, so for fans of Redmond's smartphone platform, Sullivan's pledge should be reassuring.
The next revision to Windows Phone 8 might arrive by this holiday season, according to a recent Microsoft job posting for a software development engineer. The platform has achieved some early success, surpassing BlackBerry within the U.S. and positioning itself to compete for third place in the mobile OS market. Microsoft recently touted that the Windows Phone platform has more than 130,000 apps, a third of which were submitted in the first 90 days after Windows Phone 8 launched. Still, only 15,000 of these apps specifically harness the new platform's features. Microsoft has reason to expect improvement, as the Windows Phone 8 SDK has been downloaded more than half a million times, but the platform is still playing catch-up to iOS and Android.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop has expressed faith that Microsoft's newest smartphone play could become the biggest mobile OS in the world. Windows Phone 8 has a long way to go if it's going to improbably live up to Elop's words. Even so, after earlier sniping from Microsoft OEM partners, Redmond fans probably appreciate such unambiguous and public support from a collaborator.
2. Microsoft could update Office quarterly, Office 365 previews are about to end and there's still no sign of an iOS edition.
Microsoft has suggested that Office updates will arrive more frequently, perhaps as often as every 90 days. Such a revision cycle could mean that tweaks and new features will reach end users more quickly, helping Microsoft stave off encroaching competitors, such as Google Docs, and perhaps further encourage adoption of its cloud services.
Office is undergoing a transition designed to push users away from traditional standalone licenses and toward Microsoft's new subscription-based services. With a potentially confusing array of licensing options, increased pricing for Mac users and puzzling fine print, Office faces several unanswered questions. One of the biggest unknowns, though, remains whether iOS or Android versions are in the cards. The most recent remarks from Richmond continue to evade the issue, instead emphasizing that users of other mobile platforms can use Office via stripped-down, browser-based versions.
Those using the free preview edition of Office 365, which has been available since July, will have to decide soon if they want to pony up for the upgrade, revert back to an older license or start looking at alternatives. Computerworld reported that the previews will expire in mid-March, and that preview users are already receiving emailed notifications.