Microsoft's Windows Phone 8: What's new for business users

Microsoft has revealed some new and updated Windows Phone 8 features that are meant to appeal to business users of all sizes.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

At its Windows Phone 8 launch on October 29, Microsoft unveiled a few additional business-focused features in the newest release of its phone operating system.


Back in June of this year, Microsoft disclosed a handful of business-tailored features that it had built into the Windows Phone 8 operating system. Among them: Device encryption and UEFI secure boot; private application sideloading and inclusion of a custom company hub.

Here are a few of the other just-disclosed business capabilities in the platform, listed in no particular order:

More payment and delivery options: Users can pay for Windows Phone Store purchases using credit cards, PayPal, Microsoft gift cards and/or via monthly mobile-service-provider bills. All of these are available through the phone's built-in Wallet, which is protected by the wallet's settable PIN. WiFi can be used for large downloads, elminating the need to wait for purchases to be delivered over the air.

Redesigned Office hub: Microsoft has shifted things around in the Office Hub with the goal of making it easier for users to find documents. As part of this redesign, Microsoft also moved OneNote Mobile out of the Hub and made it available directly as a standalone app which can have its own tile on the Start screen by default.

Voice notes: Users can dictate their notes and have them automatically transcribed and added to OneNote without having to type them in by hand. To make this work, users can press and hold the Start button to activate speech, say the word "Note," and then dictate. This capability works even when a phone is locked. (The speech setting is turned off by default.) Users also can send and reply to emails using voice. This capability works just like it does for text messages, Web searches and calling contacts. Users just need to tap the microphone button when composing a new message and start talking.

SmartScreen Filter: Internet Explorer 10 on Windows Phone 8 includes a Smartscreen Filter, just like IE 10 on Windows 8 does. This filter alerts users if they try to visit potentially malicious sites without having to first proactively and manually downloading lists of such sites.

Nokia Map technology: Nokia maps are built into all Windows Phone 8 devices. The included map data covers more than 180 countires. Usrs also can downloap maps for offline viewing.

Over-the-air updates: Updates are now delivered over the air, eliminating the need to plug a phone into a PC. Users can opt to manually check for updates; be notified when an update is available; or choose whether to automatically download updates (if you have data turned on under cellular settings and if your data settings allow it).

Improved Skype client: The new Windows Phone 8 Skype client keeps users signed in even when the app is closed, allowing users to be always reachable. Skype calls will remain active even if/when users navigate away from Skype. Users can receive Skype calls and chat updates while thir phones are locked. The Skype app stays "asleep" in the background until it's woken up by an incoming chat or call, reducing battery usage. Users will see their Skype contacts displayed in the People Hub.

Improved multitasking: In some cases, Windows Phone 8 will automatically pause built-in and third-party apps when users do other tasks, preventing users to have to start from scratch when they return to the apps later. In other cases, apps -- including music/video, location and Skype/VOIP -- will be allowed to continue to execute in the background.

New Windows Phone client for PCs/Macs: There's a Windows 8 Phone app; a version of this app for Windows 7 and Windows 8 desktop and a Windows Phone app client for Mac that's similar to the current Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac. These apps allow users to move content between their phones from their PCs (via the Share Charm); to manage phone storage and settings; and to search phone content.

Phone wiping safeguards: The new Windows Phones are less likely to allow users to accidentally wipe their data. If users incorrectly enter their PINs several times, they will be prompted to enter an alphanumeric phrase which needs to be entered exactly before a final PIN attempt can be made. There's also a new Kid's Corner capability which users can make available on their phones to provide children using their phones with a predetermined set of applications, with all other phone content protected by the lock screen and optional PIN.

Don't forget: There's no VPN support in Windows Phone 8. Microsoft decided to go the secure SSL route instead.

Windows Phone 8 devices will be on sale starting in November.

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