Some Windows Phone 8 devices get updated and more Microsoft news of the week

In this Microsoft news roundup, we talk 'Portico' for Windows Phone 8; features deprecated with Outlook 2013; HTC Windows RT tablet rumors; and new Windows Azure updates.

Microsoft, carriers dance around 'Portico' update details


Some Windows Phone 8 users have been getting the first update to their devices over the past week-plus.
That update, believed to be codenamed "Portico," includes a fix for rogue phone reboots, issues with Bluetooth connectivity, and being incorrectly routed to tethering upsell pages when browsing, among has other updates.

Up until this week, Microsoft was deferring all questions about the timing and features in this update to carriers. Microsoft officials wouldn't even say when and if Nokia Windows Phone 8 users -- along with HTC 8X users -- were going to get Portico.

Nokia came clean this week, telling its Windows Phone 8 users on AT&T and Rogers that they'd get the update this week. For some reason, Lumia Windows Phone 8 users on all other carriers won't get Portico until February 2013. Meanwhile, HTC 8X users in Europe have been reporting they're geting Portico delivered over-the-air. But here in the U.S., it seems only T-Mobile users are getting the first HTC 8X update, at least so far.

Microsoft has set up a Windows Phone 8 update history page as of this week, which is a positive step. But why all the secrecy around this first update? If it's a case of needing to roll out slowly so as to monitor the impact of the update on phone performance, why not simply indicate that?

By the way, those Windows Phone 8 users still having problems with automatic brightness settings even after applying Portico, you might want to try a calibration trick about which Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Richard Hay blogged earlier this week.

Microsoft goes public with features cut from Outlook with 2013 release

Meanwhile, speaking of going public with not-so-happy information, the Outlook 2013 has done just that with a new blog post this week listing the features that are being deprecated with the coming Outlook release.

The one that got the most attention from bloggers this week was Microsoft's decision to drop importing and exporting support for its own legacy .xls and .doc file formats. (These are file formats used in Excel 97 through 2003 and Word 97 through 2003.)

But the deprecated feature I've gotten the most mail about is the decision to no longer provide search results for mail and calendar items in Windows Explorer or via the Start Menu. This change probably is somewhat less surprising to Windows 8 users, who are expected to search within apps. But to those using the new Outlook on older versions of Windows, the lack of the ability to surface mail and calendar searches without doing so inside Outlook itself has proven jarring, according to some from which I've heard.

Microsoft is slated to make Outlook 2013 generally available in early 2013, when it launches its Office 2013/New Office product family. (I'm hearing the likely date is the end of January 2013.)

New 7-inch (and 12-inch) Windows RT tablet coming from HTC?

Bloomberg reported this week that HTC is supposedly working on two Windows RT tablets: a seven-inch and a 12-inch model. Both are said to be on track to launch in the third calendar quarter of 2013 -- which could/should mean Windows "Blue" would likely be the preloaded version of Windows on them, if all rumors end up aligning.

The other Microsoft partner supposedly working on a newWindows RT tablet for 2013 is Nokia, which, along with HTC, is one of Microsoft's flagship Windows Phone allies.

The seven-inch form factor is one from which Microsoft itself seems to be shying away. When I've asked whether there might be a Surface Mini in the wings, I've heard from my contacts that Microsoft isn't convinced that a PC (which is what the Softies consider tablets to be) is a good form factor for creation and consumption.

The other part of Bloomberg's report that's intriguing is supposedly the two new rumored HTC tablets will be able to make phone calls. I'm wondering if this simply means they'll preload Skype.... Mostly I'm hoping for a little more differentiation in whatever new Windows tablets come to market next year.

Microsoft delivers Azure updates across mobile services, Web sites, Store and more

Microsoft rolled out a number of incremental updates to Windows Azure on December 21. On the short list, according to a blog post by Corporate Vice President Scott Guthrie:

  • Mobile Services (job scheduler support, Europe Region Support, Command Line Support)
  • Web Sites (scale improvements, integrated source control)
  • SQL Data Sync (support in the new HTML portal)
  • ACS Management (support in the new HTML portal)
  • Media Services (job and task management, blob storage support, reserved compute)
  • Virtual Network enhancements
  • Subscription Filtering Support

All of these updates are available immediately, Guthrie said.


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