Microsoft also launched a site where users can suggest features for the OS’ Cortana voice-operated personal assistant
If you want to get documents, photos, songs and other data neatly organized on your Lumia smartphone, Microsoft is developing a file manager tool for Windows Phone 8.1, the next version of the mobile OS currently available as a pre-release developer preview.
The announcement was made by Joe Belfiore, a corporate vice president with the Windows Phone group, during a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) session Friday, during which he made generous use of all-caps words and exclamation points.
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“WOO HOO! SOMEONE ASKED THIS QUESTION!! I’ve been waiting! in fact, I’ve avoided tweeting on this very topic just for all you redditors. Seriously,” wrote Belfiore, who also posted a link to screenshots of the product.
The team building the tool expects to make it available in the Windows Store by the end of May, he said, without providing further details about its features.
Belfiore also announced the launch of a Web page where users can provide feature suggestions for Cortana, the voice-operated personal assistant in Windows Phone 8.1 that is Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now.
Asked why Cortana is “completely useless” if people don’t let it access their location, Belfiore said it’s essential for the tool to place users geographically in order to function properly.
“Cortana builds rich inferences by rationalizing across lots of different signals and content that you give her permission to access,” he wrote.
For example, with location knowledge, Cortana in a matter of days learns where a user lives and works, and starts providing commuting suggestions based on time of day and traffic information, and triggering reminders relevant to places, like things to buy at a nearby store.
“Without location, a bunch of the important end-to-end scenarios wouldn’t work or key questions couldn’t be answered,” Belfiore wrote.
In response to a question about Cortana availability outside of the U.S., Belfiore reiterated the plan to offer it in China and the U.K. when the OS becomes generally available. Other English-speaking countries like Canada and Australia could follow soon after.
“The challenge in doing this is we want the Cortana experience to be EXCELLENT for everyone — and this involves not ONLY delivering great voice recognition for all the different languages, but also making sure that we have a great regional experience with local content so she doesnt feel like an American!” said Belfiore.
He defended Microsoft and the Windows Phone development team when told that there is a perception that the company treats the mobile OS as a “second-class citizen,” and that it has broken many promises to users while the OS trails iOS and Android in innovative features.
“Microsoft DOES NOT treat WP as a second class citizen! We have a very senior, well-funded team that has amazing support from our senior leadership and from other groups,” he wrote.
“What does happen time to time is that teams who are working on cross platform work make prioritization decisions (or are limited by the nature of WP itself) such that features show up on other platforms first,” he added.
The Windows Phone team works closely and constantly with other groups at Microsoft to coordinate the porting and improvement of their apps and services on the OS, he said.
Juan Carlos Perez covers enterprise communication/collaboration suites, operating systems, browsers and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Juan on Twitter at @JuanCPerezIDG.