Windows 8 Update, Windows Phone Tweak, Surface Marked Microsoft Week

Microsoft's week involved a combination of Windows 8 and Windows Phone updates, and some news on its Windows Surface tabletop initiative.

Microsoft's relatively quiet week centered on some Windows 8 updates, an indicator that its Windows Phone could be attracting more developer interest in the wake of the Nokia partnership, and some updates to that aforementioned mobile platform.

"We're now sending out Windows Phone 7.5 updates to customers with Samsung Focus 1.4 phones on AT&T," read a Nov. 17 note on the Windows Phone Blog. "We're also sending out another wave of firmware updates from our manufacturers to select Windows Phone models." Those updates will make improvements to the smartphones' "overall function," according to the posting.

Microsoft has begun a hard push for Windows Phone adoption, boosted by the recent (and wide-ranging) "Mango" software update, and in conjunction with manufacturing partners such as Nokia. That Nokia partnership, in fact, could be sparking a rise in developer interest in the platform, which is currently languishing behind Apple's iPhone and Google Android in market share.

According to Appcelerator and research firm IDC, which surveyed 2,160 Appcelerator Titanium developers a few weeks ago, Windows Phone has surpassed Research In Motion's BlackBerry OS as a subject of developer interest, placing it behind both Apple's iOS and Android.

"Microsoft is enjoying symbiotic success with Nokia," read a summary of that report. "When asked why developers are more interested in Windows Phone 7 now than a year ago, a plurality (48 percent) said it was the Microsoft/Nokia partnership."

Microsoft has also kept up its steady stream of updates about Windows 8, its operating system due to arrive sometime in 2012; the most recent one, from Nov. 14, detailed the attempts to refine Windows Update to prove less annoying to those users who hate to constantly restart.

"This means that your PC will only restart when security updates are installed and require a restart," read a note posted on Microsoft's official "Building Windows 8" blog. "With this improvement, it does not matter when updates that require restarts are released in a month, since these restarts will wait till the security release."

Microsoft will make an exception, and push through an update, in the event of a worm or other major security issue. Windows 8 will also offer an automatic start notification, with three days' lead time before it takes effect. Within the enterprise, IT administrators can set policies "to prevent auto-restart after automatic installs (just as in Windows 7)."

In a bid to capture the tablet market, Windows 8 offers a "Metro" interface with touch-optimized, app-connected tiles, paired with a more traditional desktop interface; users will have the ability to seamlessly flip between the two. In this bifurcated manner, Microsoft hopes to challenge the iPad and other competitors in the tablet arena, while appealing to its base of current users who don't necessarily want a radical change.

Speaking of touch screens, Microsoft and Samsung jointly announced the SUR40 with Microsoft Surface is available for preorder. The 40-inch Gorilla Glass screen doubles as a table, and its resistance to shock and water makes it, at least in theory, ideal as a restaurant and entertainment-venue display. Surface allows users to virtually "grab" and manipulate objects.

For Microsoft, touch-whether for mobile devices, laptops, or tables-is evidently the future.

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