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Microsoft: Next WinPhone 8 update to arrive this summer

Won't be 'Blue,' but will include important features

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We still don't know for sure what changes will arrive in Windows 8.1, the big OS update that's expected to ship as a preview in late June, but Microsoft has begun teasing a few details of the next update to Windows Phone 8.

Windows group chief marketing and finance officer Tami Reller confirmed that the major desktop update formerly known as "Blue" would officially be called Windows 8.1 at a conference in New York on Tuesday, but she didn't have much to say about what it would actually bring.

But the Windows Phone group did have a bit to share, even if they only did so as a postscript to a blog post that was mostly about Nokia's newly announced Lumia 925 handset.

According to the post, the next Windows Phone 8 update will arrive "later this summer" and will include hundreds of "small quality improvements," in addition to a few significant new features.

All in all, Microsoft says that this update will be similar in size to the one that it delivered earlier this year, which fixed a random rebooting bug, improved Wi-Fi connectivity, and enhanced text messaging.

Among the new features this time around will be support for CardDAV and CalDAV, the internet standard protocols that allow handset users to sync their contacts and calendars with Gmail and Google Calendar. Windows Phone owners lost those capabilities earlier this year, when the Chocolate Factory discontinued its support for Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync protocol.

The Xbox Music app will be spruced up, improving the accuracy of song metadata and making it easier for users to select, download, and pin songs.

Microsoft is extending support for the Data Sense feature, which monitors mobile data usage and blocks bandwidth-heavy tasks until the phone is on a Wi-Fi network – but whether it will work on a particular phone still depends partially on the carrier.

The update will also restore support for FM radio on handsets that have the hardware, something that was available on Windows Phone 7 but was inexplicably dropped from Windows Phone 8. "We heard you!" Microsoft writes, in what's becoming something of a theme.

The blog post didn't say exactly when to expect the update, other than that it would begin rolling out to existing Windows Phone 8 handsets later this summer – which seems to indicate that it will be a free download.

According to Microsoft strategy snoop Mary Jo Foley, this will in fact be the second of three planned GDR (General Distribution Release) updates for Windows Phone 8, the third of which might be due to arrive as soon as this fall. Only after all three of these have shipped are we likely to see a Windows Phone Blue – actual version number as-yet unknown – probably sometime in 2014. ®

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