Windows Phone has come a long way in a relatively short space of time, as it determinedly plays catch-up to the more established iOS and Android operating systems.
In recent times, Microsoft has taken the Lumia range of handsets in-house, giving it control over the most successful Windows Phone hardware brand – and the unveiling of the groundbreaking Windows 10 ecosystem has piqued the interest of developers and consumers alike.
The tech behemoth is enjoying something of a renaissance under the stewardship of CEO Satya Nadella, and with its popular services, devices and ‘mobile first, cloud first’ philosophy, the company is receiving more plaudits than it has in recent memory. So – what exactly does the future hold for Windows Phone?
WINDOWS 10 FOR PHONES
The next release of Windows for phones is currently in testing, and available to preview on a range of devices, including Windows Phone handsets. There are some significant changes: redesigned menus, a new super-speedy and capable browser in the form of Edge (formerly known as ‘Project Spartan’) and numerous UI tweaks across the board. They’ve even announced a new name: goodbye Windows Phone, hello Windows 10 Mobile.
For me, the most exciting aspect of Windows 10 Mobile has to be the unified app store. An app developed for Windows will work on all devices across the ecosystem: from your pc, laptop and tablet to your phone. This hugely increases the potential audience for developers, and that’s not even the only reason for developers to bring the fruit of their labours to Windows 10 Mobile.
As announced at Build 2015, their annual developers’ conference, Microsoft is releasing two new software development kits, or SDKs, which will allow apps developed for Android or iOS devices to be brought to Windows 10 Mobile.
While there are some questions around which apps will work best and the use of Microsoft services in lieu of Google ones, these tools will undoubtedly reduce the workload for developers considering bringing their apps to the platform. This can only stimulate growth in an app store that lags behind its more seasoned rivals, and will hopefully deliver more choice to Windows users.
CONTINUUM FOR PHONES
Windows 10 Mobile has Office on it, but on its own that’s no big deal: so did the versions of Windows Phone that preceded it.
The new iteration has a trick up its sleeves, however – Continuum. Connect your high-end Windows 10 Mobile device to an external screen, and ta-da! Office behaves like the desktop version. Gone is the mobile-specific UI, replaced by full-size spreadsheets and documents. TheOutlook mail client also works a treat, turning your mobile device into an ultra-portable way to take your office with you on the go.
Apart from its obvious appeal to the light-travelling business person, Microsoft sees Continuum as a potentially popular feature in the developing world, where having a laptop as well as a smartphone may be too expensive. It could be a fantastic study aid: the less well-off could connect their phones to their TVs and get stuck in, using a full sized keyboard and mouse with their rather clever little phone.