Windows Phone Blue, Microsoft’s upcoming update for Windows Phone 8, popped a minor leak over the weekend, but now Tom Warren over at the Verge has had a chance to go hands-on with an early version of the new OS version. The key features appear to be smaller Live Tiles, like those introduced with Windows Phone 8, as well new UI features and more built-in apps. Microsoft is said to be adopting a strategy of more frequent, smaller updates to Windows instead of waiting years between more dramatic changes.
The new Windows Blue will offer improvements to popular features like Snap View, which can now snap apps side-by-side sharing an even portion of the screen, including up to four apps total on high resolution displays. More things are now viewable in the standard Windows 8 interface (formerly known as Metro), instead of hidden within the desktop view, including network connections and apps information panels.
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New apps come pre-loaded in Windows Blue, including an Alarms one, as well as a calculator, a sound recorder tool and a movie making app that replaces Windows Movie Maker. SkyDrive integration will go deeper as well, with backups to Microsoft’s cloud storage service made possible in Windows Blue, and auto-uploading of photos and video. More cloud storage integration could mean that there’s less reason for critics to complain about limited on-board storage, at the very least.
The Windows Blue changes look like a promising indication that Microsoft is moving more and more of the experience to its new interface and away from the traditional desktop. That’s good, because while the design decisions made in Windows 8 mostly seemed like a bold new direction very much in keeping with the changing way people use their computers, Microsoft’s decision to largely spoil the party by forcing users to jump back to a standard desktop with annoying frequency really took the shine off the innovation.