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Summary:

Windows Phone 8 is here, billed as “a phone made for you.” I can see why, given the customization of information, but wasn’t that available in the prior version? There are a few new features, but maybe not enough to boost Windows Phone handset sales.

HTC Windows Phone 8X

Microsoft officially introduced Windows Phone 8 on Monday in hopes of reviving its mobile software platform, which hasn’t made an impact with many consumers in years. Suggesting that “people are at the center of the experience,” the phones with Microsoft’s new operating system suggest that you won’t see one great phone for everyone. Instead, the company says, you get a phone made for you.

Some nice new features

This message was evident throughout Microsoft’s launch event with several key features added to the platform. The old Live Tiles on the phone’s home screen are still there. providing updated and personalized content. But new and related are Live Apps, which can now show customized information at a glance on the lock screen. Facebook, for example, can feed photos to the lock screen.

Windows Phone 8 Kids CornerKids Corner is another custom feature that will appeal particularly to parents. With it, you can allow certain apps or functions to be excluded from a kid-friendly mode, which essentially turns the handset into one phone with multiple personalities. Enable Kids Corner, hand a Windows Phone 8 to your son or daughter and they can only access the games and apps you’ve previously specified. All such apps appear on the kid’s home screen and your work or personal data is walled off from little fingers.

The Windows Phone 8 People hub is a carryover from the prior version, but with some new tricks. Rooms are custom groups for sharing private messages, locations, calendars, photos, and to-dos. Those calendars can even be shared with iPhone users. Windows Phone 8 also includes Data Sense: A feature to help you manage your monthly data allowance and allow you to surf more with a given amount of mobile broadband. Microsoft says it tested Data Sense and with it, users can surf 45 percent more on the mobile web with their current mobile broadband plan because the service compresses information at the carrier level; Verizon will be the first to support this.

It’s all about the apps

As far as apps, Microsoft says there are now 120,000 apps for the platform and 46 of the top 50 apps from other platforms will be on Windows Phone 8, including Temple Run, Twitter, Cut the Rope, UrbanSpoon, LivingSocial, and Angry Birds Star Wars. In early 2013, a new version of Pandora arrives for Windows Phone 8 and will include one year of ad-free music; odd since Microsoft is pushing its own Xbox Music service across all platforms. Lastly, Skype is optimized and integrated into the phone experience: It’s always on but won’t drain the battery, says Microsoft.

Windows Phone 8 Data SenseOf course, Microsoft wants to sell Windows Phone by pushing the entire Windows ecosystem, something I said last year that may help boost Windows Phone sales. Said Ballmer: “If you’re one of the millions who will use Windows 8 in the next year, there is no better phone for you than a Windows Phone.” Microsoft’s SkyDrive platform — with a free 7 GB of cloud storage — is the synchronization “glue” to keep all of your data accessible between Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It syncs Office docs, full-resolution photos and videos.

Who’s got what phone model

As far as the hardware, there were few surprises. Ballmer showed off the Nokia Lumia 920, Samsung ATIV S and Windows Phone 8X from HTC, noting that a smaller version will arrive as the 8S. Verizon will carry the 8X and Lumia 922 along with the exclusive ATIV Odyssey. T-Mobile has the Lumia 810 and HTC Windows Phone 8X while AT&T is carrying the Lumia 920, Lumia 820 and HTC 8X. Notably absent was any mention of Sprint. All Microsoft Stores will carry the full range of Windows Phones from all carriers and in every color option.

Along with the customization theme, I noticed another key selling point: Windows Phone 8 has many useful bits that third parties offer on other platforms built right into the software. For example, I’ve seen a Kids Corner-like function on certain T-Mobile Android phones. And the data compression/usage function of Data Sense is used by the Opera browser and Onavo. But it’s smart of Microsoft to take these types of functions and make them native: Why have people search for such useful solutions when they can be integrated into the platform?

Haven’t we heard this song before?

All in all, Windows Phone 8 sounds promising. What it doesn’t sound is revolutionary; it’s more of an evolvement from Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, which haven’t been big sellers. As much as I liked Windows Phone 7.5, I don’t see huge compelling improvements that will make much difference in consumers minds. What was “reinvented” and wasn’t the last version nearly as customizable?

So part of me wonders: If this new platform is just an improved version of that last one that hasn’t taken off, is there enough here to see a big sales jump? I suspect not; however, what could help is the common interface between Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 along with deep SkyDrive integration in the platform as a whole.

  1. Probably the most compelling and innovative thing…..for MS…. they have done is getting on board with Verizon.

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  2. “Verizon will carry the 8X and Lumia 922″

    Is that a typo, Kevin, or do you know something we don’t? :)

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  3. With Sandy looming you are going beyond call of duty. Stay safe Kevin.

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  4. The biggest thing is the marketing. Microsoft never really promoted WP7. Now, they are sinking tens of millions into advertising WP8. Also important is getting the carriers onboard so they will promote WP8 too.

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  5. Windows 8 is an epic failure.

    The Windows RT devices will die a quick death, while the desktop Windows 8 will suffer the death of a thousand cuts, a long decline that will take many years.

    For years, Microsoft and Ballmer have tried to tie all Microsoft products to the Windows monopoly to ensure success. However, the Windows desktop OS of today offers nothing to entice users to a Windows RT tablet. In fact, it’s the opposite. The Windows brand will deter users from Windows tablets and phones.

    Microsoft’s biggest problem is that it’s late. If it released Windows Phone 8 around 6 years ago, it would have been a success. But instead it arrives almost 6 years after iPhone. In those years, Microsoft spent time releasing dud platforms such as Kin, SideKick and Windows Phone 7, all of which were cancelled (Windows Phone 8 is a complete rewrite and a different platform to WP7).

    With its PC monopoly unable to help, and being so late, there is no hope for the newcomer Windows RT or the Metro/Modern interface. Microsoft will be forced to cancel both after tepid sales ensue, and revert to its traditional Windows desktop interface ready for the slow decline in the Post-PC era.

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  6. The Skydrive auto-censorship and having your account shut down if you post stuff Microsoft finds offensive – in your own non-public storage! – makes it unacceptable anyway. The Windows Phone platform and especially the Nokia hardware is truly excellent, and as apps arrive it becomes more and more compelling… but what the heck is Microsoft doing going through my stuff? Just cause I store it there doesn’t mean it’s fine that they sift through it and analyze it.

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