Five Windows Phone features we want in Windows 9

The release of Windows Phone 8.1 to the development community (read our review here) brought tons of new features to Microsoft's smartphone platform. Everything from a digital assistant to the ability to share your Wi-Fi credentials with your contacts made their ways into the update.

What's interesting to think about is that Windows Phone now has many features that would translate well into the desktop environment, and if you are willing to read the tea leaves, we would be willing to bet that we will see some of them make their way to desktop OS in the next major update to the platform.

With current expectations that Windows 9 will make its debut in about a year from now, work on the update is surely underway and listed below are five features we hope to see Microsoft include with the next generation operating system.

Wi-Fi Sense

Taking your laptop or Surface with you while on the road is something that everyone has done. With Windows Phone 8.1, Wi-Fi Sense can automagically log you into public Wi-Fi hotspots without the need to accept terms and conditions. Basically, if you are in range of free Wi-Fi that Microsoft has cataloged, you get logged in on your phone. This would clearly be an awesome feature for a laptop, too. 

There is really no reason why this feature shouldn't be expected to arrive with a future update to Windows and if it turns out to be as useful as Microsoft makes it out to be, this could be a homerun of a feature on both Windows Phone and laptops.

Custom Backgrounds

Windows Phone live tile customization is unmatched by any of Microsoft's competitors, and it's a feature we would love to see brought to a future iteration of Windows. In terms of functionality, it doesn't add much in the way of productivity enhancements but it does allow you to make your device feel more personal.

More so, by allowing the user to customize the Start screen to their liking with custom tile backgrounds, this increases the likelihood that the user will want to use Microsoft's newest environment. Seeing that they have had some trouble in convincing desktop users to fully utilize the new environment, custom tile backgrounds could be one more small feature that will make the transition a little bit more friendly. 

Action Center

One of the most requested Windows Phone features was a notification center and we would love to see this feature make its way to the desktop. With an abundant of modern apps that are supporting push notifications and desktop applications like Skype that could integrate into a notification center, this feature could be a perfect hub for blending the two environments.

By putting all notifications for modern apps and desktop apps in a centralized location, it will make the OS feel more cohesive. More so, it will increase the functionality of the platform by making it more efficient for users to find the notifications they are looking for in one repository, rather than having to hunt around the OS to find the specific app that had a pop-up.

Shape Writing

​Once you use shape writing on Windows Phone, you will never go back. When using a Surface or Lumia 2520, after using shape writing, you will want – no, demand – that Microsoft bring it to Windows, it's that good. 

Shape writing is a great way to input text quickly in a touch environment and shape writing + modern apps is a match made in productivity heaven. The faster input allows you to accomplish any text based task faster and with shape writing's learning ability, it can learn any one-off words that you use frequently as well. 

When Microsoft brings this feature to Windows, and they better or we will personally protest on the Redmond campus, you will love it too; it's a huge improvement over the 'traditional' text entry.

​Cortana

Of all the Windows Phone features we have seen, Cortana has us the most excited about the desktop (and platform integration) opportunities. The digital assistant can learn your traits and help you get your tasks done faster. For example, when leaving work, Cortana can make suggestions about how to drive home at night if traffic is bad on your 'typical' route; with desktop integration, Cortana can span platforms to create one cohesive service.

Imagine you are using your laptop and about to head to bed and you say to Cortana, "Set an alarm on my phone for 9 a.m.," then when you get into bed, your phone alarm is already set. The ability to use Cortana on multiple devices and have it sync across these platforms is a massive leap in seamlessly using multiple devices with one OS. Think about being on your phone and saying, "Cortana, send this recipe to Microsoft Word," and having it all sync through Azure to link your phone requests to your desktop.


We actually do expect Microsoft to bring most, if not all of the above items to a future iteration of Windows. Microsoft has been working to make 'One' operating system so keeping feature parity across the systems would be a logical and welcome move as they are all great features. Frankly, we would love to see them now but we know that Microsoft is working away at other features, like the Start menu, but with Windows 9 supposedly right around the corner, we may not have to wait long.

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With a Action Center on Windows, how will the devices pick the one you're using at that time?

People complained a lot about Skype and multiple calls, isn't this a real change with Action Centers on your phone, tablet, laptop and/or PC?
It would drive me mad if my phone, tablet and PC were ALL beeping the whole day ;-)

And yes, I use all three throughout the day......

Of that list, Cortana and possibly WiFi Sense are the only things I agree with. I absolutely, without qualification, HATE the action center and the transparent tiles in the WP8.1 update. I also despise the broken volume controls. It's like going through a gauntlet to turn EVERYTHING down, since now using the volume buttons only work one kind of volume or another. I'm nearly ready to throw my 1020 against a wall.

Who are "we"? I don't want Cortana in my Windows.

On second thought some people might want it, so just keep Cortana as part of Metro, so that those who like Metro and Cortana can use them and those who don't won't have to.

the BG feature makes no sense for win8. Unlike WP, win8 has custom backgrounds already. However win8 has big open spaces which lets the background be visible which WP does not support. Also Win8 supports groups which WP does not. This allows the UI to breath a bit therefore making the WP look not applicable.

if anything what they should do in WP is support more background color choices for the space in between the tiles, or maybe even an image. Then the possibilities are endless. Win8 could maybe allow for transparent tiles.

Has there been any real mention of a Windows 9 from Microsoft? Listening to Microsoft at Build you don't get the impression of a new OS release coming but instead it sounds more like a commitment to fix Windows 8.

real mention as in will it be called windows 9, no, but there are a lot of hints that windows 8 is the last of the 8s as we know Threshold, which is the internal name of win9 is a massive revamp.

there is also incentive to do so. remember windows 7? it was basically vista SP1 with some UI changes and suddenly not calling it vista SP whatever made it good.

Based on what was announced at Build and what has been rumoured to be included in Threshold I have doubts that Windows 9 is coming. Prior to Build I would have agreed Threshold was Windows 9, afterwards I have to say they sound committed to resolving the issues and running with Windows 8. I just don't believe they are prepared to throw Windows 8 under the bus like they did Vista

I agree Cortana needs brought into Windows. It would one up Apple with Siri. Second, I really want to see those interactive Live Tiles as well, plus advancement of the Metro UI *for all SKUs*.

The whole reason I switched over to the MS line of devices/programs was how they work together - Outlook on my PC synchronizing with Outlook.com and my phone without doing anything, accessing OneDrive everywhere, etc. If they DON'T extend this to other platforms, I'd be shocked.

A feature I think Windows could do with is the ability to set a proxy for individual network profiles. Its irritating going from site to site, having to change the proxy settings. iOs, osx and wp have this but not Windows... Still. Third party tools and scripts can do the job but it would be so much easier having it natively.

deadonthefloor said,

Wi-Fi sense for WP8.1 has this.

Which requires a phone... I'm talking about Laptops, or even Windows 8/RT tablets. I travel from school to school and have a third party program which changes the proxy settings for me. But it would be much easier to have this functionality built in.

There's also the reverse: Features in Windows 8.1 that we want in Windows Phone 9:

1) Ability to sort "All Apps" list by "Most Recent", "Date Installed", and "Categories" as well as by name

2) Extra Large Tiles (two 'wide' tiles stacked, or four 'normal' tiles)

3) More options in the background/accent colors

4) Picture Passwords to unlock

And for both Windows 9 and Windows Phone 9:

5) Integrated "folder tiles" on the start screen... tiles that can hold other nested tiles (without having to rely on a 3rd party download app to sorta hack the feature in).

Action Center gets my vote. Today, ff you do not see a notification of an modern app at the time when it happens, she gets lost. Applications for the desktop still has the systray.

Could make a Action Center retro-compatible system with systray, integrating the two worlds.

This could get really messy very quickly if it is open to the classic desktop. If Action Center makes it to Windows, I think it is best served in the Modern UI or for Modern Apps only. That is where the One Microsoft vision takes hold (1 app across Windows Phone, Windows and XBox One) and where it will be the most effective.

zeke009 said,
This could get really messy very quickly if it is open to the classic desktop. If Action Center makes it to Windows, I think it is best served in the Modern UI or for Modern Apps only. That is where the One Microsoft vision takes hold (1 app across Windows Phone, Windows and XBox One) and where it will be the most effective.

I don't think it'll be messy at all, there are desktop apps that have a version of a toast notification already, they're basically like tool tips that popup down over the systray. My torrent client can do it if I want to let me know a download has ended for example.

The best way to do this is to have a API for desktop apps to use, the app would have to be updated to support it of course but at least this way not everything automatically makes it's way into it. It can also hold the systray inside it, and now you just have one single button/icon on the taskbar to click and see. They've already done this to an extent since Windows 7 when they allowed you to hide systray icons and now you press the little up arrow to see them. This would take that and add support for other notifications as well, give you a nice list over the tray icons etc.

I'd really like it if the Notifications popped up in the same glassy taskbar tile that the apps come up in. They could pop up right to the left of the status bar icons.

Pulagatha said,
I'd really like it if the Notifications popped up in the same glassy taskbar tile that the apps come up in. They could pop up right to the left of the status bar icons.

I don't have room to the left of my systray, if that's where you mean. My taskbar has apps pinned and running from one side to the other, no room.

I expect 2 of those for sure, Cortana and the Action Center should both be coming to Windows, once you have Cortana working the way it should on the phone then transitioning it over to Windows PCs should be no issue. Add to the fact that if you're using the same account on both/multiple devices with it then even better since it can take sync more into account between devices.

The Action Center is in Control Panel today - however, that very behavior that folks will accept in a phone or tablet most folks won't accept in a desktop-type/real-productivity-type OS (for reasons of privacy) - how else most folks will permit Google (or Apple) to do things that are verboten to Microsoft? I would also love to see Cortana (as an option) in Windows Future - and I think the Bing integration is paving the way for exactly that (especially since even Bing is OS-neutral - why couldn't Cortana become an option in Android, or iOS for that matter?).

PGHammer said,
The Action Center is in Control Panel today - however, that very behavior that folks will accept in a phone or tablet most folks won't accept in a desktop-type/real-productivity-type OS (for reasons of privacy) - how else most folks will permit Google (or Apple) to do things that are verboten to Microsoft? I would also love to see Cortana (as an option) in Windows Future - and I think the Bing integration is paving the way for exactly that (especially since even Bing is OS-neutral - why couldn't Cortana become an option in Android, or iOS for that matter?).

I know it's in Windows, but only the name is the same. A Action Center like on the phone would be fine for Windows, even for desktops, just give it an API and let it replace the systray. In my opinion it can still hold icons like the systray does but also adds support for notifications from store apps and even (though the API) WPF and other desktop apps.

Like my torrent client for example, it would use a little popup at the bottom over the systray to tell me a torrent is done downloading, something like that can be in the Action Center, then give me one icon/tile or w/e on the taskbar to let me know I have to check it and that's it. Toss in a nice kb combo to bring it up and even better. I think it's possible to do and in a nice way that even desktop users would like.

ZeroHour said,
Cortana on Xbox ftw too.

THIS!

Kinect would be incredible with Cortana behind it...

It only makes sense to consolidate their work anyway...

pratnala said,
Cortana on Windows gets my vote

My guess is that most of these could happen in another update to windows 8.1... =)

pratnala said,
Cortana on Windows gets my vote

Absolutely. Is Siri on OSX yet? That needs to happen as well if it hasn't done so already. Both have had voice command systems in the OS for years, but its time for a serious upgrade.

pratnala said,
Siri was rumored for OS X 10.9. But, apparently it has been pushed to OS X 10.10. So, maybe this year

OSX-X! =)