Microsoft launches Windows Phone 8

The new software is expected to be strong competition for Apple's iOS and Google's Android

By , IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, windows phone 8

Windows Phone 8 launch

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft, presents new apps at Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 launch event in San Francisco on October 29, 2012

IDG News Service/Martyn Williams

Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's new operating system for cellphones, was launched on Monday and with it the software company's hopes of reclaiming a portion of the fast-growing smartphone market.

Microsoft has been largely absent from the smartphone market during its most-recent years of explosive growth, but market watchers predict the company will soon start to gain share after Monday's

launch.

At an event in San Francisco, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft and head of its phone division, presented new features of the operating system that will be featured in phones that are expected go on sale later this year.

The software presents a very different home screen from the rows of icons found on Apple or Android phones and is a key design feature of the operating system.

Its design uses the same active tiles found on Windows 8, Microsoft's new PC operating system that launched Friday. The tiles are constantly changing with fresh information so, for example, a weather tile will update with the latest forecast while the email app will show the latest message received.

"The static grid of icons has been the standard on smartphones," said Belfiore. "We decided not to use that tired old metaphor. Our way is to put people at the center of the experience."

People users interact with can be given their own tiles so that the latest interactions on email or social media are updated.

"It's the most personal smartphone operating system you can get and keeps you closer to the people that matter most in your life because of that," he said.

Belfiore announced a number of new apps that will be available for the platform including versions of Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Angry Birds, Urban Spoon and, from early 2013, the Internet music streaming service Pandora will be available. Windows Phone 8 customers will get a year-long free subscription to Pandora's ad-free service.

"We estimate 46 of the 50 most-used smartphone apps will be on Windows Phone 8," said Belfiore. "That's huge progress for us."

A new lock screen that shows app content, such as sports scores, news or favorite photos, rather than a static image, was another of the features shown Monday.

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