Software giant Microsoft officially launched the Windows Phone 8 (WP8), its next generation operating system for mobile phones, at an event in San Francisco yesterday.
Microsoft hopes the new OS will help it regain smartphone market share, and has stressed that its new platform has 46 of the world’s top 50 apps.
In a statement, the company showed off the new phone’s features, claiming its Internet browser, Internet Explorer 10, was the fastest on any mobile and that it offers the closest integration with Skype, a popular video chat application.
In the April-to-June quarter, Microsoft reported a 3.1 percent share of the mobile phone system market. This is blamed for having discouraged developers from building apps specially for it, according to IDC.
Earlier this year, mobile phone manufacturers including Samsung, HTC and Nokia all launched flagship WP8 devices although they had been unable to release them into the market while waiting for Microsoft to formally unveil its software. The handsets, reports say, will now go on sale across Europe over the weekend with worldwide rollout expected in November.
Windows Phone 8 is similar to the Windows 8 OS for PCs that Microsoft released last week. To navigate the interface, users wipe through tiles that display information derived from the Internet, such as Facebook status updates of weather forecasts.
Microsoft had based the Windows Phone 7.5, Windows Phone 8’s forerunner, on its aging Windows Mobile platform. The new OS shares its software core, or kernel, with its PC relative, expected to make it easier to transfer programmes between the two platforms.
The new OS has a Kid’s Corner, designed to make it safer for users to lend their handsets to their children. The feature enables access restriction to limited number of apps “without giving access to email, phone call or text message functions.”
According to Microsoft, the feature was inspired by a recent survey that showed nearly two-thirds of smartphone-using parents occupied their children with the devices while running errands, shopping or doing some other activity.
Windows Phone 8 also sports a new feature called Rooms, designed to enable users to create an invitation-only environment where they can share their photos, calendars or notes.
The new OS also makes use of the Skype experience, which runs in the background even when the phone is locked or shut. Microsoft promised the new OS would be available to additional video chats including Qik and Tango.
Despite the new features, some analysts are still of the opinion that Microsoft has an uphill task swaying mobile users away from Android, Google’s market leading Android and iOS, which powers Apple’s iPhones.