Feeds

Windows Phone 8.1: Like WinPho 8, but BETTER

Blog blag bug... You said WHAT would be in the OS?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Hands on The biggest Windows Phone news this week was that it's now royalty free. This means it will cost manufacturers less to make a Windows Phone than an Android phone, all other things being equal. And, of course, it also received the much-anticipated update.

Yes, it's taken what seems like an eternity to arrive, but Windows Phone 8.1 should address many of the annoyances bothering loyal users.

Notifications, shortcuts for commonly used settings, on-device (ie, Spotlight-style) search, and a better browser are four usability features that topped every user's list of desired improvements. Welcome to 2011, you might say. But Microsoft had a simple and distinctive system already - and it has managed to make it more convenient without making it more cluttered.

And thankfully, some of the rumoured updates turned out to be hoaxes. The Start backgrounds touted by gadget blog The Verge were a fiction - tiles get a much more attractive personalisation update, and the long rumoured "Notification Tile" turned out not to exist. In fact, almost every blog prediction made about tiles turned out to be rubbish. Let’s hear it for the bot-driven, click-driven blog economy!

After a hands on with the system (on first two Nokia WP8.1 devices) I found they considerably improve the usability of a system that was already simple and stable - but lacking the flexibility and fiddle-ability of Android.

It's astonishing that Windows Phone has made the strides it has in enterprise without supporting VPNs. Many SMEs don't use these, but for bigger enterprises, the ability to support enterprise Wi-Fi encryption standards, VPNs and S/MIME are mandatory. Finally, Windows Phone gets these.

The only catch?

You'll have to wait until the summer for the updates to roll through carrier inspection to existing handsets. And you'll have to wait until much later in the year for a UK version of the most-touted feature, the Cortana voice assistant.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore demonstrated new lock screen effects on Wednesday.

Let's dive in.

Tile-tastic UI gets Apple-tastic notifications

Microsoft opted not to make any radical changes to a UI which, once in users' hands, has been popular. (Windows Phone scores highly in net promoter scores with users). The designers resisted adding another context level - such as Tile folders. And Tiles behave exactly as before, so there's no new grouping or spacing options. You can opt to turn the "three column" view, introduced for devices with larger displays in the third Windows Phone 8.0 update, on or off.

The original design of Windows Phone was intended to make a notifications aggregator superfluous, as Tiles could show live information, and flash-past "Toast" notifications show information as it came in.

But in practice, Tiles was a little too dogmatic, and required too much time and gesture work. Notifications would have appeared in 2012, in Windows 8, but just missed the deadline. Microsoft has implemented it similarly to iOS. There’s little point in being different for difference’s sake, they reasoned.

Notifications are combined with shortcuts into a new "Action Center". Here's what it looks like:

Very iOS-like notifications. You can opt to pull down the panel when the screen is locked, if you're a trusting type.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Microsoft on the Threshold of a new name for Windows next week
Rebranded OS reportedly set to be flung open by Redmond
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Business is back, baby! Hasta la VISTA, Win 8... Oh, yeah, Windows 9
Forget touchscreen millennials, Microsoft goes for mouse crowd
Apple: SO sorry for the iOS 8.0.1 UPDATE BUNGLE HORROR
Apple kills 'upgrade'. Hey, Microsoft. You sure you want to be like these guys?
ARM gives Internet of Things a piece of its mind – the Cortex-M7
32-bit core packs some DSP for VIP IoT CPU LOL
Lotus Notes inventor Ozzie invents app to talk to people on your phone
Imagine that. Startup floats with voice collab app for Win iPhone
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.