Mobile

Microsoft announces new Windows Phone partners & spring update for Windows 8.1

Windows Phone tiled
Image Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft is bringing a bevy of new Windows Phone hardware partners into the fold.

The Redmond-based technology giant has partnered with Foxconn, Gionee, JSR, Karbonn, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo, LG, Longcheer, and ZTE, according to Microsoft officials at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The nine hardware manufacturers will develop on the Windows Phone platform alongside Nokia, Samsung, HTC, and Huawei, though it’s unclear when they plan to bring new handsets to market.

It’s a bit curious that Microsoft listed ZTE and LG as new partners, because both have previously released Windows Phones. Perhaps Microsoft officials wanted to reinforce the companies’ commitment to the platform.

Microsoft also announced the first major update for Windows 8.1, saying “a compelling new update for Windows Phone” is coming this spring. Microsoft exec Joe Belfiore confirmed many of the leaked details, including power and search buttons on start screen, a title bar at the top of modern apps, and reduced memory and space requirements for hardware manufacturers.

The company has decided to remove some earlier requirements for Windows Phones, like physical camera, back, and search buttons. It’s also adding support for Snapdragon 200 and 400 chip sets, as well as dual SIM.

“We are making it easier, faster, and more affordable for partners to develop a Windows Phone,” said Nick Parker, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s OEM division, in a statement.

Microsoft plans to offer more enterprise functionality on Windows Phone. Features like enterprise Wi-Fi, S/MIME, VPN, and enhanced mobile device management will be part of the coming update, said officials.

The spring update doesn’t have an official name — it’s known as “Update 1″ internally — or a clear release date. Microsoft will likely offer more details its Build Developer Conference in early April.

Lastly, Microsoft confirmed that Windows Phone owners will get access to Facebook’s Messenger app soon. Windows Phone has supported Facebook messaging since launch, but Facebook’s official Messenger app offers additional features, like support for “stickers.” It’s been available on iOS and Android for a few years.

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