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Microsoft reveals Windows Phone 8 details

That's the lure Microsoft is offering to developers to get them to create more apps for its two upcoming operating systems: Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.

Hard on the heels of the announcement Monday that Microsoft is building its own Surface line of tablets featuring Windows 8, the company Wednesday divulged details of Windows Phone 8 at the Microsoft Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco.

And, lo and behold, the two systems will share the same core kernel, meaning "developers working on Windows 8 will have incredibly easy transition to Windows Phone 8," said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management.

"The fundamental Microsoft play is one of streamlining the multiple access points into the same ecosystem of apps, content and services from many devices," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with technology firm IDC. "The long-term plan is that phone, tablet, PC and set-top can tap into the same ecosystem."

That is expected to be a boon as Microsoft aims to woo its wide network of developers to create apps for its Windows Phone, which lags far behind Android and Apple phones in smartphone market share. Part of the huge gap in users can be explained by the gap in the number of Windows Phone apps compared with the other two platforms.

Computing tasks traditionally done on desktop and laptop PCs are increasingly moving to mobile devices, and Microsoft must carve a space for itself in that market.

The company's Windows operating system has dominated the PC market, nevertheless its mobile offerings — in smartphones and tablets — hardly make a dent.

That's why so much is riding on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, which is designed to run on tablets as so then as traditional desktops and laptops.

Specific launch date for Windows Phone 8

Microsoft didn't give a specific launch date for Windows Phone 8, even though it's expected to be released this fall. Phone manufacturers on board include Nokia, Huawei, Samsung and HTC.

There was some bad news for current Windows Phone owners: Those using Windows Phone 7 and 7.5 won't be able to update to Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft did say, although, it will release a software update, Windows Phone 7.8, for those users. That update will include some of the features of Windows Phone 8, including a new Start screen.

• Windows Phone 8 will support nearly field communication research, allowing the phone to serve as your electronic wallet.

The phone's Wallet hub will integrate third-party apps

The phone's Wallet hub will integrate third-party apps, just as those from banks and credit-card companies, and as well have a section for deals from stores and other outlets.

Business-friendly features have been added, including security capabilities just as encryption. Business IT departments will be able to deploy their own apps in their own way.

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and video chat will be deeply integrated into the phone, and Microsoft is working with audio-entertainment company Audible to improve the phone's speech recognition.

Overall, Windows Phone 8 is "a nice upgrade for Microsoft and undoubtedly keeps them competitive in the mobile space," said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst with innovation firm Gartner.

The biggest challenge

The biggest challenge, although, for Windows Phone — and one not addressed at this summit — is how to get more people to buy the devices.

Currently, Microsoft's smartphone platform, which includes both Windows Phone and the outdated Windows Mobile operating systems, holds less than 2 percent of the worldwide smartphone market and 4 percent of the U.S. market.

The number of apps available

It's been making leaps in the number of apps available. Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of the Windows Phone division, said Wednesday there are now some 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace.

What Windows Phone executives emphasized, although, was how easy it would be for developers to port their games and apps from Windows 8 to Windows Phone.

The same game for Windows 8

Game developers can in substance write the same game for Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Belfiore said. And there's the same rendering on Internet Explorer 10 for both the phone and desktop PCs.

"Windows Phone 8 could be the upgrade that turns Windows Phone from an as well-ran into a strong competitor in the smartphone market that Apple and Google will have to take in all seriousness," said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst with independent innovation firm Directions on Microsoft.

Improvements just as being able to run on multicore devices and having NFC capabilities mean Windows Phone users will no longer have to accept compromises on those fronts, he said, during the "continuity of a development platform across all types of devices is unmatched by any competitor."

More information: Nwsource
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