Microsoft announced today at the Mobile World Congress, being held in Barcelona, Spain, that its long-awaited enterprise update for its Windows Phone will soon become a reality. The purpose for the update is to help it work better in a corporate environment, as well as adding features which cater to rapidly-growing emerging markets. The computer software giant is promising a release date of “later this spring” for the update.
According to Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore, there will be new security features, including signed and encrypted S/MIME and automatic triggering of the virtual private network client whenever an enterprise resources is used.
Belfiore also noted that there will be more support for enterprise Wi-Fi systems using EAP-TLS encryption, enhanced MDM policies and certificate management to enroll, update and revoke credentials for authentication.
Another feature of the spring update will be support for the storage of apps on microSD cards, allowing phone manufacturers to ship handsets with only 512 MB of memory and 4 GB of storage.
Perhaps in a move to target emerging markets where dual-SIM is key, Microsoft is including support for this feature. According to Microsoft, there will be “total user control” of this feature, with Live Tiles for each SIM and the ability to link those in the user interface.
Many of the changes being introduced by Microsoft are aimed at reducing manufacturing costs by using software to do jobs that were once done by hardware. For example, instead of having a physical camera and control buttons, these functions can be performed by software instead.
The company will “technically” support all existing Window Phone 8 devices, says Belfiore, although it is not clear whether carriers will let Windows Phone 8.1 devices perform the upgrade. However, Microsoft says it will provide its own support for existing devices. This represents a change from the Windows Phone 7 to Windows Phone 8 release, when existing devices could only upgrade to 7.5, but not 8.0.
In addition to the announcement about the Windows Phone update and proposed release date, the company also spoke about a new OEM initiative designed to spur the creation of a wider variety of hardware for the Windows Phone. Microsoft is helping small phone makers, stores and operators make white-label Windows Phone devices with low specifications, as well as cheaper price tags, by means of an Internet-based partner portal. It appears that this move is an effort by Microsoft to boost sales by targeting the low-end phone market. Newly-announced partners include Foxconn, Gionee, JSR, Karbonn, Lava (Xolo), Lenovo, LG, Longcheer and ZTE.
Microsoft also announced that a Facebook Messenger app would be available within “weeks.”
More information about the planned changes to the Windows Phone will most likely be revealed at Microsoft’s Build conference, which is being held in April.
They did not provide a name for the Windows Phone update or state a firm release date. Nor did they confirm that the update would be free for existing users, although in the past there has been no charge.
By Nancy Schimelpfening