Microsoft's busy getting its ducks in a row as the October 26 launch date for Windows 8 barrels closer and closer; yesterday, Windows president Steven Sinofsky announced updates for the slew of Microsoft apps that are baked into the operating system.
Bing got the honor of being the first Modern-style app to receive an update. The new version is slated to go live today with better local and image search capabilities, Bing rewards integration and more. Microsoft's SkyDrive, Mail, Calendar, People, Messaging, Photos, Maps, Finance, News, Sports, Travel, Weather, Video, Music and Games apps are all scheduled for updates before the official launch of the operating system, with both PC manufacturers and Windows 8 RTM trial users receiving access to the updates as they become available.
A few additions warrant special attention. The improvements to the Mail app are probably the most significant, with a new conversation view and complete IMAP support being added. There's still no POP3 support, though you can work around the issue by jumping through a few webmail-focused hoops.
The Photos app update adds handy-dandy crop, rotate and auto-curated slideshows functions, while the Video app gets support for closed-captioning and buying in local currencies. Microsoft seems to have lavished particular attention on Maps in the wake of Apple's #ios6pocalypse, adding a bird's eye view, driving direction hints, maps for more than 3,000 indoor venues and integration with the Bing and Travel apps.
Those changes are just the tip of the iceberg. If you're curious about the updates coming to your favorite Modern-style program, the Building Windows 8 blog post contains a bullet-point list of all the improvements app-by-app.