Windows Phone 8 Launched
Microsoft lifted the veil on its latest Windows Phone 8 (WP8) operating system (OS) at an event in San Francisco today. Handsets from HTC, Samsung and Nokia will feature the new mobile OS. Huawei is expected to launch a device as well. Those living in Europe will be able to get the new WP8 handsets this weekend. Other markets, such as Asia, are expected to be able to buy the handsets in November.
“There’s one more thing that sets Windows Phones apart,” said CEO Steve Ballmer. “That is new, killer hardware.”
The flagship of the Windows Phone lineup is the Nokia 920, built out of a partnership between the two companies. It will be available in the U.S. in November.
Two other high-end smartphones, the Samsung Ativ S and HTC Windows Phone 8X, were previewed by CEO Steve Ballmer.
“The global launch of Windows Phone 8 is just starting,” said Ballmer.
The software presents a very different home screen from the rows of icons found on Apple or Android phones and is a key design feature of the operating system.
Its design uses the same active tiles found on Windows 8, Microsoft’s new PC operating system that launched Friday. The tiles are constantly changing with fresh information so, for example, a weather tile will update with the latest forecast while the email app will show the latest message received.
“The static grid of icons has been the standard on smartphones,” said Belfiore. “We decided not to use that tired old metaphor. Our way is to put people at the center of the experience.”
People users interact with can be given their own tiles so that the latest interactions on email or social media are updated.
“It’s the most personal smartphone operating system you can get and keeps you closer to the people that matter most in your life because of that,” he said.
The firm also showed off Kid’s Corner – a function designed for parents who give their handsets to their children to play with. It allows them to restrict access to a limited number of apps without giving access to email, phone call or text message functions.
Microsoft said a survey had suggested about two-thirds of smartphone-owning parents in the US had used the handsets to occupy their children while out shopping, visiting friends or some other activity.
Another new feature is Rooms which allows users to create an invitation-only environment in which members share their calendars, notes, photos and other material. The firm suggested it might be used to help families, sports teams and other community groups stay “in sync”.
Microsoft also made much of an “always-on” Skype experience.
This addresses one of the major flaws with its previous mobile system which had not allowed the video chat program to run in the background. That had meant that users of iOS and Android phones had been able to receive calls while using other apps, but WP7.5 devices had not – a notable omission bearing in mind Microsoft paid $8.5bn (£13.7bn) to buy Skype in 2011.
Overall, it has been an interesting day with the WP8 launch and Google’s announcements! More to follow.