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Microsoft Promises Windows 10 Flagship Phones in Late 2015

There was little in the way of new announcements at Microsoft's Mobile World Congress (MWC) event on Monday, but the company did unveil some new hardware and gave one of the earliest public demos of the Project Spartan browser for phones.

Stephen Elop, executive vice president of the Microsoft Devices Group, presided over the presentation. Elop kicked off the presentation by saying that Microsoft's focus with Windows 10 is more on user experience, rather than on devices. "We should not obsess on the mobility of the devices but instead we are focused on the mobility of the experiences. And that is where we have shifted our focus," he said.

The Windows Insider program, which lets registered users access early technical preview bits of Windows 10 before general availability, has 2.8 million participants, according to Elop. Since its launch in October 2014, the program has generated 900,000 pieces of user feedback for Microsoft regarding Windows 10.

About Windows 10 for phones, however, Microsoft's MWC event did not yield much in the way of new information. Elop reiterated that it is Microsoft's "ambition" to make Windows 10 available as an update to all Windows 8.1 smartphones, although some devices may lack features because of hardware limitations. Elop did say that new flagship Lumia devices running Windows 10 will debut "later this year" and that Microsoft will issue more announcements about Windows 10 and Windows 10 devices throughout the year.

2 New Lumias for Midrange Market
Microsoft unveiled two non-flagship Lumia devices at the event -- the Lumia 640 and the Lumia 640 XL. Both will be released globally in April, according to Elop, and available in single-SIM, dual-SIM, 3G and and LTE configurations. Both models come with 1GB of RAM and run on the 1.2GHz, quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The devices both come with Windows Phone 8.1 pre-installed, but can be upgraded to Windows 10 when it becomes generally available.

The Lumia 640 has a 5-inch HD display, an 8-megapixel camera and a 2500 mAh battery. Pricing for the 3G model will start at 139 euros (about $156) and for the LTE model at 159 euros (about $179).

The Lumia 640.

The Lumia 640 XL has a 5.7-inch HD display, a 13-megapixel Zeiss camera and a 3000 mAh battery. Pricing for the 3G model will start at 189 euros (about $212) and for the LTE model at (about $246).

The Lumia 640 XL.

For both devices, Microsoft is offering a free one-year subscription to Office 365 (including a single license for a PC and a single license for a tablet). Users also get 1TB of OneDrive storage and 60 Skype World minutes per month.

Windows 10 Demos
Microsoft gave brief demos of Windows 10 for phones, highlighting the new Project Spartan browser and Office universal apps. However, neither of these components are available on the current Windows 10 technical preview build for phones, which was released to Windows Insider participants in mid-February. Microsoft has said that future preview builds of Windows 10 for phones should be more feature-complete.

Microsoft's Neil Bradley showed how the Spartan browser works on a Lumia phone. "Project Spartan is built using the Universal Apps platform, so that means it shares a common code base and it renders Web pages with the same new rendering engine that we use across all Windows 10 devices," he said, adding, "It's designed to adapt to whatever device it's running on, whether a phone, a tablet or a large-screen desktop PC." The Spartan demo showed an uncluttered UI with reading layouts that are optimized for a small screen. Bradley said users can change between a light and a dark theme as it suits them, as well as change font sizes.

Bradley also showed how Universal Apps, such as Maps and the Cortana personal assistant, can quickly sync across a user's devices. For instance, Windows 10 lets a user perform a search on the Maps app on a laptop and immediately access those same search results on a phone. Similarly, a user can set up a reminder on Cortana on a Windows 10 laptop and access those reminders on their phone.

Julia White, product marketing general manager for Office, followed with demonstrations of Office apps running on Windows 10 smartphones. Universal Office apps for Windows 10 were released to preview in early February.

White showed how users can edit and create cells in Excel on their phones, as well as how to use the new "Insights" search function in the Word app. Insights lets users perform a Web search based on a highlighted portion of a Word document while remaining in the app. White also demonstrated the new "Tell Me" tool for Office. A user who needs help doing something in Office can simply type a question in the Tell Me dialog box, and the tool will show where to find the feature that the user needs.

White also gave a demo of the new Surface Hub device, which Microsoft unveiled in January. The Surface Hub is a large-screen touch display that runs Windows 10. The demo showed how Surface Hub can act as a digital white-board that is capable of what White called "two-way inking," which means that one file can be opened and edited on both the Surface Hub and another Windows 10 device simultaneously.

Other News
Elop said Windows 10 represents an opportunity for Microsoft's operator partners. As an example, he announced a partnership with AT&T and Microsoft aimed at SMBs. The AT&T Mobile Office Suite, available now in the United States, includes Office 365, Lync calling, technical support, wireless and data plans, and smartphones in one bundle.

"The solution will help SMEs succeed in the mobile-first world, by equipping them with hardware and services aimed at productivity and collaboration," Elop said in a blog post.

Microsoft also touted the growth in the number of Microsoft's smartphone OEMs. "Continuing the impressive growth of the Windows Phone ecosystem we are excited more partners are unveiling Windows Phone devices," wrote Nick Parker, Microsoft's corporate vice president of OEMs, in a blog post Monday. The past 12 months have seen the launch of 31 new Windows Phone devices from 25 partners, he said. Parker's post spotlighted new Windows Phone 8.1 devices that debuted at MWC, several of them in developing markets like India, the Philippines and China.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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