Like many of you, I received an email from Microsoft this week explaining that it was dropping the Rooms feature from Windows Phone as of next month. Here’s what this change means, and my thoughts on the importance of this feature.
First: what is Rooms?
Introduced in Windows Phone 8, Rooms was a way for consumers to create shared photo albums, calendars, notes, and text messages. It was an interesting idea for families of course—where everyone could contribute photos to a family vacation room, perhaps—or for groups with shared events, like kids’ sports teams.
Rooms was an interesting idea. But the way it was implemented and its reliance on Windows Phone for a first-class experience relegated it to a curiosity. Indeed, I’m sure most Windows Phone users didn’t even know that Rooms existed, and if they did they probably didn’t really understand it. But as with any such feature, I suspect there is a subset of users who really liked Rooms and will miss this functionality. Fortunately, it won’t just disappear. Instead, the changes to Rooms will take place in two stages.
“Starting in March 2015, Rooms on Windows Phone will no longer be supported,” a Microsoft email explains. “[But] you’ll still be able to view and use your room photo albums, calendars, and notes.”
That is, after this change, you’ll still be able to view and use existing room photo albums, calendars, and notes on your Windows Phone 8.x handset, but not create or edit rooms. Then they’ll disappear entirely in Windows 10.
According to the Rooms end of support FAQ, the support actually ends “after March 2015.” So perhaps the end date is really March 31, 2015, about seven weeks from now.
If you do have content in Rooms you’d like to save, you can do so on your phone or on the web:
Windows Phone 8.x. The main Rooms UI is in the People app. But you can access room-based photos and videos in the OneDrive app; just look for a folder with the same name as the room. The Calendar app displays your room calendar. OneNote has your shared room notes. And the Messaging app will have any messages.
Microsoft doesn’t explain how or whether it will replace Rooms in Windows 10, but the email does vaguely note that it will provide “new features in Windows 10 that will help you stay in touch with the people that matter most.” I suspect none of these features will in any way resemble Rooms.
A semi-related Windows Phone feature called Groups is apparently unaffected by this change.