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Microsoft signals strategy shift at Build conference

Joab Jackson | April 3, 2014
Instead of relegating desktops to a lower priority while pursuing the mobile device market, Microsoft will integrate its PC dominance into its current core strategy to become a devices and services company, opening keynotes at the company's 2014 Build developer conference suggest.

This unified approach could also benefit users, as all their documents can be shared across all the devices, through Microsoft's cloud storage.

When Microsoft first introduced Windows 8, it had gotten a fair amount of criticism for not providing an optimal experience for non-touchscreen desktop users. With the release of the Windows 8.1 Update, the company has injected some of the favored desktop tools into the Modern touch interface. The toolbar, long a staple of the Windows desktop, can now pop up on the Modern interface and right-click commands have been enabled to work in the interface as well.

Also the Windows desktop start menu now can incorporate links to applications from the Modern interface.

The company is also moving Windows Phone development aggressively, with new features in the newly announced Windows Phone 8.1 that the company hopes will make it challenge Android and Apple iOS capabilities.

Perhaps most notably, Windows Phone now has a personal assistant, called Cortana. As with Apple's Siri or Google Now, the user can ask Cortana a question and it will return an answer, on screen and in a computerized voice.

For a competitive edge, Microsoft has done a lot of work in using context to provide more relevant information and has wired Cortana to Bing to enhance the results with Bing's structured information. Cortana can also scan a user's email and calendar to suggest actions, such as getting ready to meet someone.

The company also took time to bring the recent acquisition of Nokia's devices and services arm closer into the Microsoft ecosystem.

Nokia employees are about to become full-fledged Microsoft employees, noted Stephen Elop, Nokia executive vice president for devices and services. Elop also introduced the next line of Nokia phones. The flagship Lumia 930 features wireless charging, a 10-megapixel camera, and advanced audio recording capabilities. It will retail for US$599 and be available beginning in June.

Elop also introduced lower cost models the Lumia 630 and Lumia 635. The 635 has 4G connectivity and the Lumia 630 uses 3G. One version of the 630 can run two SIM cards, which allows the user to have two call paths from a single phone to keep work and personal calls separate, for instance.



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