Windows 8, Silverlight 5, Windows Phone Marked Microsoft Week

Microsoft's week included new glimpses of Windows 8, a new release for Silverlight 5 and more news on Windows Phone.

Microsoft spent much of the past week beating the drum for two of its biggest projects: Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Microsoft's official "Building Windows 8" blog offers a steady stream of updates about the upcoming operating system's features and user interface. That the postings have accelerated over the past few days is almost certainly no accident, considering that the company's BUILD conference, expected to involve some high-profile reveals of Windows 8's interface, is scheduled to kick off in mid-September.

The past week, Windows and Windows Live division President Steven Sinofsky insisted via the blog that Windows 8 will prove equally adept at serving the needs of both tablet and traditional PC users.

"Having both of [the] user interfaces together harmoniously is an important part of Windows 8," Sinofsky wrote in an Aug. 31 posting. "Our goal was a no compromise design."

As part of that, he added, Windows 8's tablet-centric interface peacefully coexists with the desktop one.

"If you don't want to do any of those -PC' things, then you don't have to and you're not paying for them in memory, battery life or hardware requirements," he wrote. "If you do want or need this functionality, then you can switch to it with ease and fluidity because Windows is right there. Essentially, you can think of the Windows desktop as just another app."

Over the past few weeks, the Building Windows 8 blog has focused on everything from support for USB 3.0 to Windows Explorer revisions to the reasoning behind the user interface. Current rumors also suggest Microsoft could hand out quad-core tablets loaded with a test version of Windows 8 to BUILD conference attendees. Windows 8 is widely expected to launch sometime in 2012.

Microsoft is also ramping up for the release of Windows Phone "Mango," a wide-ranging update to its smartphone platform. The stakes couldn't be higher: According to fresh data from research firm Nielsen, Windows Phone owned 1 percent of the U.S. smartphone OS market in July, lagging Google Android, the Apple iPhone, Research In Motion's BlackBerry and even the increasingly antiquated Windows Mobile franchise.

This past week, HTC revealed two Windows Phone devices it apparently plans to release in October: the Titan and the Radar.

"A lot of you have asked us whether Mango will support front facing cameras-and now that these HTC phones have been formally announced, I can confirm officially that Mango does support these," Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone program management, wrote in a Sept. 1 posting on the Windows Phone Blog. "We've included support for -switching to FFC' for photo/video shooting into the native camera experience and we've added API support to the application platform."

Even as Microsoft touted this new camera functionality with Mango, it faces a lawsuit-filed the past week in Seattle federal court by a Windows Phone user-alleging the smartphone camera software transmits users' location data even after they try to switch that function off.

In addition to pumping its big releases, Microsoft has issued some smaller-but-significant ones, including a new release candidate (RC) of Silverlight 5 and tools for Python developers.

In other words, it's looking to be a busy September for Redmond.

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