Microsoft Unveils Windows Phone 8
October 30, 2012

Microsoft Shows Off New Windows Phone 8 Software

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

It´s been a busy time for Microsoft, that little company from Redmond, Washington. They´ve been preparing for the launch of Windows 8, the latest upgrade of their desktop operating system, which was released to a dubious world on Friday. Also released on Friday was the Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet, Microsoft´s first entrance into the tablet game.

Yesterday, Microsoft´s corporate vice president Joe Belfiore and CEO Steve Ballmer joined Hollywood actress Jessica Alba on a San Francisco stage to announce Windows Phone 8, the latest upgrade to their smartphone platform. Windows Phone has always lagged behind Android and Apple in the smartphone wars, and Microsoft hopes this new OS will help push them towards the front of the pack for the first time.

Windows Phone 8 builds on top of the existing Windows Phone platform, displaying all of a user´s information in a tiled outline with Live Apps. These Live Apps display information such as text messages, emails, missed calls, etc. Windows Phone 8 allows even more apps to become Live Apps and display the latest information directly on the Start screen, rather than make a user search for and open the app in question. One example, Groupon, will now begin to display the Daily Deal right on the Start screen.

The Facebook for Windows Phone 8 app will also be able to update instantly with new wallpapers.

Microsoft also praised themselves on being able to get even more Windows Phone apps into their app store. According to Joe Belfiore, the Windows Phone app catalog now reaches 120,000 apps, including some of the world´s most popular apps, such as “Words With Friends,” “Living Social,” and “Urbanspoon.”

Internet radio service Pandora is also expected to release an app specific to Windows Phone 8, and though these users will have one-year access to ad-free streaming, the app will not be available until “early 2013.”

All in all, Microsoft says they´ll have 46 of the top 50 apps in their store soon.

"That's huge progress for us," exclaimed Belfiore.

The press event wasn´t without a few shots taken at the smartphone leaders.

"Apple did announce a fifth row of icons, but we wanted to come at it from a different point of view,” said Belfiore, taking a shot at Apple´s new 4-inch screen.

“We decided not to use the tired old metaphor. We put people at the center of the experience. Not icons for apps, not focus on speeds and feeds like Android and the iPhone do, respectively."

Elsewhere in the new Windows Phone 8 is a feature called Kids Corner, a “specialized place on the phone for kids to play.”

Though Microsoft has said this feature is exclusive to Windows Phone 8, a similar feature exists in Apple´s iOS called Guided Access. According to Microsoft, once parents set up Kids Corner on their phones, they can let their kids play games on them without the worry of deleting pictures, sending wacky emails or even making unapproved purchases, something parents have taken Apple to task over before. Kids Corner can even be customized with its own Start screen which gives kids access to only the content the parents have chosen.

There are even some new phones to be released which will run Windows Phone 8 out of the box, though these phones won´t arrive until mid to late November on AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon.