Microsoft announces app updates for Windows 8 RTM

In a Thursday blog post, Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky, president of the company’s Windows group, announced a slew of app updates that will roll out to early adopters of Windows 8 RTM in the coming days and weeks.

Starting tomorrow, a Bing update will be available to download in the Windows Store, with more updates rolling out steadily until the Windows 8 launch on Oct. 26. In Sinofsky’s blog, Microsoft’s Gabriel Aul detailed the list of upgraded apps, which were first released in the manufacturing build of Windows 8 in August. Aul also delved into specific improvements for each program.

Aul said the updates will also be available for PC manufacturers to ship with new Windows 8 models as well as users who have installed Windows 8 RTM.

SkyDrive, Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Maps, News, and Games are among the apps to receive refreshes in the weeks preceding Windows 8’s launch. Microsoft late last month announced updates to SkyDrive , and will soon add a search within SkyDrive function and allow you to rename and move folders.

Among other interesting app updates, the Mail app will include a conversation view of your inbox, and the Photos app will support photo cropping and rotation, as well as auto-curated slideshows. The Maps app will include a bird's eye view function, some 3,000 indoor maps, driving direction hints, and integration with Microsoft's own Bing and Travel apps.

Speaking of Bing, a new file picker will let you grab images for use on your lock screen. The News app, meanwhile, will add content from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and include an improved article reader with font customization, zoom and other features. The Weather app will also improve, with up to 10 days of weather forecasts, and more granular temperature reports.

The upshot? While the Windows Store might be suffering serious problems with third-party inventory, it's nice to see that Microsoft is paying attention to propping up the apps over which it has direct control. For the full list of improvements to built-in Windows 8 apps, hit Sinofsky's blog entry here.

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