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Microsoft to refresh Windows 8 core app trio today

Gregg Keizer | March 26, 2013
Calendar drops support for sync to Google's cloud calendar, claims report

Microsoft today announced it would start pushing updated versions of several long-criticized Windows 8 apps, including Mail, Calendar and People, the "Modern"-style program for keeping track of contacts, to the Windows Store tomorrow.

Mail, Calendar and People run in the new "Modern" user interface (UI), formerly called "Metro," that's included in Windows 8 and the default UI of Windows RT, the limited-function edition designed for tablets and ARM processor-equipped notebooks and hybrids.

Today's announcement was expected: On Friday, Microsoft-centric blogs said that the refreshed apps were imminent.

The updates will officially launch Tuesday, although a Microsoft spokeswoman said they will appear "as early as this evening." Rather than rely on the familiar Windows Update service to download and install the apps, however, users must manually steer to the Windows Store from within Windows 8 or Windows RT, then click on the "Updates" link at the upper right, to retrieve the new versions.

These were the first major upgrades to Windows 8's and Windows RT's bundled apps since the two dueling operating systems launched last October, and foreshadow a faster upgrade release cycle for the two OSes themselves.

Microsoft announced the updated apps in a blog post, which also described some of the changes. Mail, for example, will now filter messages to display only those not yet read, automatically complete addresses in the To: field based on prior messages, and support rights-managed emails, which typically restrict practices like forwarding or printing.

But Calendar will drop support for synchronizing with Google Calendar, according to The Verge, which quoted a Microsoft program manager.

Microsoft confirmed that to Computerworld today.

That, too, was in the cards. In December 2012, Google announced it would abandon Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync (EAS), a popular enterprise-grade synchronization service that is also widely used by consumers to sync their smartphones and tablets with company email, contacts and calendars.

Google said it would drop EAS support for new consumer customers as of Jan. 30, 2013, but promised that it would continue to sync accounts of existing free accounts and all paying Google Apps customers.

It wasn't clear, however, whether Microsoft's Modern-style Calendar would drop EAS support for all Google users, including those, such as Google Apps for Business customers, who can still sync through EAS. Microsoft did not immediately reply to a request for clarification on Monday.

"If [Microsoft] pulls sync support for corporate [Google] accounts -- like me -- this will get real ugly, and fast," said Patrick Moorhead, the principal of Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email.

Windows 8 users have complained about the quality of some of the operating system's core apps since the OS was in public preview, with most focused on Mail. Today, several people applauded the upcoming updates in comments appended to Microsoft's announcement-by-blog. But most still griped about something.


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