At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said Windows Phone would allow users to personalise their devices to make them “as individual as they are”.
Announcing devices that had already been teased by Nokia, HTCand Samsung at their own individual press launches, Microsoft repeatedly stressed that Windows Phone 8 integrated seamlessly with its new Windows 8 operating system and that it allowed users to easily access the things that were most important to them, such as contact details and information about family members.
The news came on the same day asGoogle announced its new mobile phone and tablet, the Nexus 4 and Nexus 10, as well as a new music service.
Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s head of Windows Phone said the new devices were “a phone made for you – the most personal smartphone operating system you can get; the perfect companion for your Windows PC and your Xbox.” He said that each Windows Phone could become “a unique reflection of who you are, like a fingerprint”
Among a small amount of new features unveiled, Microsoft included a ‘Kids Corner’ feature that provides a walled garden for parents to select which apps, games and settings that children can use when they ask to play with an adult’s phone.
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Microsoft also emphasised that its apps, which it dubbed ‘Live Apps’, would integrate with its operating system more deeply and be allowed to show limited information on a device’s lock screen. The company emphasised that it would have 46 of the world’s 50 most popular apps available at launch, including improved versions of Twitter and Facebook. A new data sensor will allow people to monitor their data usage and American users will also get a year’s free use of music service Pandora. Miniature social networks, called Rooms, would also allow users to share, for instance, family photographs easily and solely with family members, backed up by integration with Microsoft’s cloud storage system SkyDrive and its note software OneNote.
Prices will start from around £30 per month, with EE offering Nokia Lumia 920 devices on its 4G network.
Scott Hooton, Chief Commercial Officer at retailer Phones 4u said “It’s encouraging to see Microsoft putting parental controls at the heart of its new Windows Phone 8 OS. Nearly all kids in the UK have a mobile (97 per cent), and a surprising one in three aged between five and ten have their own mobile phones. As every parent knows, this is fast becoming the norm due to the benefits of mobile technology, but you still have concerns about the risks.”
Ovum analyst Nick Dillon said that “The success of Windows Phone 8 is crucial to Microsoft, which has failed to make meaningful inroads with its re-designed mobile OS since its launch two years ago. While there is very little wrong with the software, its design is significantly different from the current status quo of the “grid of apps” user interface, and this change represents a perceived risk to potential customers. However, in the last year Microsoft has built consumer familiarity with the new design by extending it to both its Xbox console and its PC and tablet operating system. In contrast to the launch of Windows Phone 7.5, Ovum has noted an increase in optimism and support for the platform from both vendors and mobile operators ahead of Windows Phone 8, which is generally driven by the belief that Microsoft’s proposition is now both unified and complete.”
Ovum forecast Windows Phone would grow from 4.5 per cent of smartphone market share in 2012 to 13 per cent in 2017, putting it in third place, ahead of BlackBery, behind iOS and Android.”