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5/3/2014
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Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1: 3 Takeaways

Windows Phone boss Joe Belfiore's Reddit "Ask Me Anything" chat included feature news on the forthcoming Windows Phone 8.1 -- and frank talk of mobile struggles.

Windows Phone has neither Android's overwhelming market share, nor the iPhone's stranglehold over high-margin sales. The research firm IDC predicts Microsoft's mobile OS will account for only 3.9% of shipments this year. It's basically an also-ran.

But Microsoft hopes to change that. The company just absorbed 25,000 Nokia employees, an assimilation that poses enormous logistical challenges but shows Microsoft is finally serious about mobility. The company will also soon release Windows Phone 8.1. Unveiled last month as a developers' preview, its new features include a more customizable UI, a notification center, and Cortana, Microsoft's much-hyped answer to Siri and Google Now.  

[Microsoft spared Windows XP once. Will it happen again? Read Microsoft: Windows XP Update An 'Exception.']

Microsoft VP and Windows Phone Manager Joe Belfiore conducted a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) chat on Friday to not only tout Windows Phone 8.1, but also hear participants' criticisms. His tone was enthusiastic but candid. Belfiore defended against claims that Microsoft considers Windows Phone "a second-class citizen." But he also gave the iPhone its due as a disruptive force and acknowledged some upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 features, such as its convoluted Settings screen, should be better. What did the conversation reveal about the future of Windows Phone? Here are three key takeaways from Belfiore's chat.

1. Windows Phone 8.1 will include a file manager.

"WOO HOO! SOMEONE ASKED THIS QUESTION!!" Belfiore wrote when asked if Windows Phone will ever include a file manager. Even though the feature wasn't included in the developers' preview, Microsoft evidently plans to implement it by this May.

Windows Phone 8.1 will feature a file manager by later this year.
Windows Phone 8.1 will feature a file manager by later this year.

Belfiore not only revealed that Microsoft will launch the much-requested feature, but also offered teases of the UI via a series of screen shots. The screen shots indicate users will be able to look through locally stored files, as well as those on an inserted SD card.

2. Cortana will probably come to Windows -- but Microsoft isn't saying so.

With releases such as the Office suite for iPads, new CEO Satya Nadella has stressed that high-value Microsoft software should move with the user across devices. Based on this reasoning, it should only be a matter of time before Cortana becomes available on Windows, if not also on iOS, OS X and Android.

Belfiore played it coy when asked if Windows Phone 8.1's personal assistant will come to Windows: "Nothing specific to announce, but Cortana herself is always telling us she's a fan of PCs herself." He did, however, reveal that Cortana, initially announced for only U.S. customers, will expand to new markets, starting with China and the U.K.

[ For more background, see Microsoft's Mobile First, Cloud First Strategy Explained.]

3. The Windows Phone "App Gap" is closing but not nearly closed.

After more than a year and a half on the market, Windows Phone 8 boasts more than 240,000 apps--respectable, but

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
5/3/2014 | 9:59:22 PM
Pros and Cons
For WindowsPhone, my experience as an end user is rather limited. I used to purchase a Lumina for my mom since it has big screen size, big font size, concise and clean UI with big icons. But sorry to say the UI cannot be called fancy and somehow it's a little bit difficult to find relevant settings. I am not sure if WindowsPhone 8.1 will be better with newly added features. The file manager is a good thing to have but in my humble opinion the App availability is still the key - without strong support from development community, WindowsPhone platform may not last for long.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2014 | 8:36:53 PM
Re: Pros and Cons
Good points, the availability of apps and familiarity with Windows will determine the future of Windows Phone 8.1 (and 8.x). Universal Apps might be able to create a healthy ecosystem in time, it is interesting that Microsoft went with the x86 architecture for the Xbox One, this brought the PC and Game developing world closer, if it is relatively easy to port a low resource hungry game onto a mobile device then the Windows Phone could score big time, since, some users have a Smartphone because of its ability to perform mobile gaming.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
5/4/2014 | 9:21:27 PM
Re: Pros and Cons
Thanks for echoing me on this. I do love your idea about porting games to WindowsPhone. XBox is actually a pure x-86 based PC and you can install OS on it. If we can port PC game to WindowsPhone, it will create more growth potential for it.
hho927
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hho927,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/5/2014 | 12:43:38 PM
Re: Pros and Cons
The hardware is not the issue. MS made XNA long ago. If you use XNA to develop games, you can publish your games to any platform.

XNA is not good for large games. Hardcore game developers don't use XNA. Most of them were written in C/C++ even machine language(I don't know what they use now. I quit develop games long ago). Each OS (xbox,windows,etc) have different APIs. So to port them, they have to rewrite some codes.
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