Microsoft's week included a handful of new mobile apps, the U.S. unveiling of Nokia's Lumia 710 and an abrupt move by a high-placed executive.
Microsoft's week centered on a flurry of applications for various smartphone platforms, yet another sign of the company's continued shift toward a more mobile-centric mentality.
Those apps included one for its SkyDrive cloud storage on Windows Phone and the iPhone. "In addition to their OneNote notebooks, iPhone customers can now access all of their files in SkyDrive, create folders, delete files, and share links to folders and files directly using the Mail app," Mike Torres, group program manager for SkyDrive Devices and Roaming, wrote in a Dec. 13 posting on The Windows Blog.
Other application features include the ability to browse the entire SkyDrive, share any folder or file with one or more people, and create new folders. Users can also organize their files and folders according to personal preferences.
Microsoft has developed other applications for Apple's mobile products, including Bing and OneNote. Despite their bitter rivalry in mobile operating systems and other categories, Microsoft has diligently continued to build software for the various Apple platforms: a wise move, considering the enduring popularity of the latter.
Microsoft's OneNote 1.3 for iOS-also released this week-supports both versions of the iPad. Additional features include support for several new languages, tabbed user interface, an upgraded Windows Live sign-in experience and the ability to sync notebooks over a WiFi connection.
Other mobility-related news out of Microsoft this week included reports that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has replaced Andy Lees, president of the company's Windows Phone division, with Vice President Terry Myerson.
Lees has apparently shifted to another role within Microsoft: expanding on the interoperability between Microsoft's various platforms, including Windows Phone and Windows 8. For the moment, though, he will keep the title of "president."
"I have asked Andy Lees to move to a new role working for me on a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8," Ballmer wrote in an internal memo reprinted in part by AllThingsDDec. 12. "We have tremendous potential with Windows Phone and Windows 8, and this move sets us up to really deliver against that potential."
Speculation in online forums abounded about whether Lees' move counted as a promotion or demotion. Those who argue the latter are pointing to how, under Lees' watch, Windows Phone hasn't performed up to Microsoft's sales expectations. "We haven't sold quite as many probably as I would have hoped we would have sold in the first year," Ballmer told an audience during Microsoft's financial analyst meeting earlier in 2011.
Those who see the move as a promotion, on the other hand, suggest that unifying Microsoft's various ecosystems into a large, interoperating "super system" presents a prime challenge and opportunity for a talented executive.
Nokia, one of Microsoft's highest-profile partners in its Windows Phone initiative, announced this week that the Lumia 710 will make its U.S. debut on T-Mobile Jan. 11. The midmarket device will feature a 1.4GHz processor, 5-megapixel camera, and a choice of either black or white exterior. Preloaded applications will include Nokia Drive, which offers turn-by-turn navigation and voice-activated control.
"The intended audience is the first-time smartphone buyers," Chris Weber, president of Nokia's U.S. division, told eWEEK Dec. 13. "That is by far the biggest opportunity for us in the U.S." Nokia is also angling to make the Lumia 710 a go-to device for those first-time buyers normally intimidated by smartphone technology.
Microsoft will also contribute "learning and resources" to Nokia's and T-Mobile's promotional efforts, according to Weber.
Microsoft also announced plans to automatically update users to the latest version of Internet Explorer available for their device. "We will start in January for customers in Australia and Brazil who have turned on automatic updating via Windows Update," Ryan Gavin, general manager of Internet Explorer business and marketing, wrote in a Dec. 15 posting on The Windows Blog. "IE is how millions of Windows customers connect to the Web, so keeping that part of Windows updated at all times is critical to keeping them safe online."
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.