Microsoft took the wraps off Windows 8 Phone today, boldly claiming the OS will be better for apps than iOS or Android, but also how Windows 8 on tablets, phones and PC will knit together to become your "virtual office".
Joe Belfiore, manager of the Windows Phone Program at Microsoft, positioned Windows 8 Phone as an advance that would see smartphones become "reinvented around you" and Windows 8 Phones would be personalized akin to your own fingerprint.
“When you use Windows Phone and you get to experience focus on people, you’ll find that the focus is not just on making it more convenient to text friends, but it actually helps maintains better relationships”, said Belfiore.
Apps are part of smartphone personalization
Microsoft emphasized that Windows 8 lets the apps on your device be much more customized. Microsoft is a long, long way from having the hundreds of thousands of app available on Apple's App Store, but Belfiore said quantity isn't the most important thing in a not so subtle dig at Apple.
“It’s not just having lots of apps to choose from, it’s choosing the right apps to light up the smartphone experience.
“We had to reinvent what the app experience was like; it’s not just a grid stack.”
Microsoft continued this developer focus, and said that 46 of the top 50 apps will be in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Belfiore mentioned tight new integration with Facebook and Twitter, while there was also the mention that popular apps like Temple Run, Urban Spoon and Pandora will be coming.
There are 120,000 apps on the Windows Marketplace today.
New features to limit data, for interesting lock screens and to entertain kids
Moving swiftly onto the features, Microsoft gave a brief explanation of Data Sense, a compression web technology to allow for 45% more browsing on the same data plan, and Kids Corner, a feature for locking or unlocking phones for your kids.
The latter, which was also promoted by actress Jessica Alba on-stage for a short time, lets you push games and apps to the Kid’s Corner, while blocking access to other data on your phone.
Other features included a customized home screen and the ‘Room’ feature to gather select people together and share content in the Windows PeopleHub.
Microsoft says SkyDrive will be key to tablet and PC sharing
Moving on from the new features and the focus on apps, there was a heavy promotion of SkyDrive and, in particular, how Windows Phone 8 fits into the Windows 8 ecosystem.
Belfiore said that moving documents, photos and music across devices would be "effortless" wherever you are.
The Microsoft exec said that the "star player" here would be SkyDrive, for its ability to sync and even store photos longer than Apple’s iCloud. “Think together as the PC and phone, it becomes your virtual office.”
Concluding proceedings, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came to the stage to act to reveal his thoughts on the new OS.
Steve Ballmer reflects on an "energizing" week
Ballmer began by passing mention of what had been an "energizing" few days for his company, and said that Microsoft had seen an "incredible response" to Windows 8 and the Surface tablet.
The Microsoft CEO added that demand for touch devices had been "quite astounding" and that the lines of customers at Microsoft stores had been heartening.
“Windows 8 PCs really are the best PCs ever. People love how we brought together keyboard and touch, work and play, PC and tablet.
“Today we’re bringing phones in the Windows 8 family and it’s a very different perspective of what a smartphone should be.
“It’s the time for Windows 8 phone to bring about the biggest reinvention of the smartphone. Our hardware partners are in, the carriers are all in, our mobile operators around the world are in and developers are in, and filling the Windows Store.
“And in case you weren’t aware, Microsoft is all in.”