MEGATech Showcase: Everything From the Windows Phone 8 Launch Event

In foggy San Francisco, far away from Hurricane Sandy’s destructive reach, Microsoft held a press event to formally launch the Windows Phone 8. Joe Belfiore, manager of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Program, took the stage to talk about the new phone platform and its features, of which there are many.

Microsoft has worked closely with Qualcomm to ensure that their mobile OS works as well as it could with the chipset it uses. There are now more than 120,000 apps for the phone. The OS is available in 50 languages.

Belfiore spoke of the importance of quality over quantity when it comes to applications and showed an ad focusing on the personalization aspect of the phone. The idea is that you outfit your phone with the apps that work best for you.

MEGATech Showcase: Everything From the Windows Phone 8 Launch Event

Live Tiles allows you to customize your home screen with the “things and people” that are important to you. It looked good, but it also felt a bit like glorified icons. This segued nicely into Live Apps, which can display update information right on our lock screen, making it the “ultimate glanceable UI.” The phone’s Facebook app will also push photos to the lock screen. Microsoft is really obsessed with that lock screen.

We got glimpses at a handful of apps. We were told that the Windows Phone 8 has its own versions of Twitter and Skype, the latter of which is always running in the background. We also heard about or saw icons for Angry Birds, Chase, Paypal, The Weather Channel, Words with Friends, Temple Run, Urbanspoon, Fairway Solitaire, CNN, Draw Something and more. Belfiore made a special point to announce Pandora, which will release in early 2013 and come with a year’s worth of ad-free music.

MEGATech Showcase: Everything From the Windows Phone 8 Launch Event

Windows Phone 8 has feature called Data Sense, which is designed to help you control your bandwidth and subsequently your data costs. It compresses web pages while you browse, helps you find Wi-Fi hotspots on a map, and, coolest of all, shuts off things like auto-updating your apps when you’re close to your bandwidth limit. It will also tell you how much data each app uses. Microsoft is claiming that with Data Sense, you can get 45 percent more browsing on the same data plan. Of course, carriers need to be onboard with it. Verizon is and will offer it this fall.

Kids Corner lets your kids play with your phone without any danger of them sending incriminating text messages or destroying your life in some other way. Kids Corner is more or less a fully-featured parental block, which allows you to control what your kids can access on your phone. Belfiore brought out his kids to help show off the feature, and while they’re adorable, they’re not as adorable as Jessica Alba, who also helped demo Kids Corner. Alba also talked about how easy it was to implement the settings she uses on iTunes into her Windows Phone.

People Hub is Microsoft’s contacts feature and it lets you sort contacts into “rooms,” which can then be tracked and interacted with on a room-by-room basis. You can incorporate friends who are on different platforms and they can even experience some of the Windows features, like the calendar.

Skydrive, Microsoft’s cloud-based hard drive, allows you to move files between Windows, Xbox, and Windows Phone 8. It’s nothing new, but cloud storage is as important as ever and it makes sense to feature it. Photos are automatically uploaded to SkyDrive, which seems handy. You start off with 7GB of free storage and have the option of adding more.

With Apple in their sights, it’s no surprise that music plays a big role. Again, with the multi-device integration, you can create a playlist on one device and listen to it on another. With MacSync, you can transfer your playlists and music from iTunes right to your phone.

MEGATech Showcase: Everything From the Windows Phone 8 Launch Event

At this point, Belfiore said his goodbyes and gave the stage to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer immediately started talking about the personalization aspect that Belfiore touched on earlier. He talked about the Start screen and how you can pin all of your favorite contacts. He called the Windows Phone 8 the perfect companion to Windows 8, mentioning how a Microsoft account gives you one unified experience across all devices.

He quickly moved on to hardware announcements, mentioning by name the Nokia Lumia 920 as a Windows Phone 8, discussing its display and camera. We saw a quick glimpse of the Samsung ATV before Ballmer launched into the Windows Phone 8X from HTC, the design of which was inspired by Windows Live Tiles. This phone and many more go on sale this weekend in Europe. Those in the US have to wait. Verizon will have phones by Thanksgiving, T-Mobile by November 14, and AT&T sometime in November. Of course, the Microsoft Store will carry every phone as well.


Ballmer concludes the event by saying that hardware partners, retailers, developers and carriers are all onboard the Windows Phone 8 experience. He gives the personalization aspect one last push before signing off.

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