by Brandy Betz | February 5, 2012 6:15 am
Windows Phone 8 details leaked last week offer consumers a glimpse of the forthcoming mobile operating system from Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). This information trickles out mere days after rumors swirled about whether there would be a version of Office 15, the next iteration of the Microsoft Office application, that would work with the Windows 8 operating system and, maybe, Windows Phone 8. Not to jump to conclusions, but it appears Microsoft is trying build some momentum here.
In any case, purported features of Windows Phone 8 have been attracting interest not just among the gadget-obsessed but also among investors, because the product is designed to be a magnet for app developers, (possibly) compatible with the Windows 8 operating system for PCs, and loaded with user-friendly data monitoring capability.
In addition, Windows Phone 8 is intended to give smartphone makers a range of design and performance options, since the OS will work with a variety of processor configurations, up to the high-speed quad-core level, and accommodates four different screen resolutions. Software includes Microsoft-owned Skype integration that treats the service’s calls identically to a regular call from the phone. Near-Field Communication (NFC), a mobile payment system similar to Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Wallet, also is included and is secured with full device encryption.
Touchscreen features—a centerpiece of the Windows Phone 8 OS–include the ability to tap on pictures or documents for sharing and application capabilities. Plans are in place to double the available applications to 100,000 prior to launch. The company is working with Android and iOS developers to make the application conversion process run smoothly.
The data monitoring tools mentioned above are designed to help users on limited data plans track their usage, and may become the system’s standout feature. Windows Phone 8 will, for example, have the ability to sense capped connections and can automatically switch users to a cheaper available connection. The software also can highlight data hogging applications, and includes an overall usage calculator that makes it easier to avoid overages that inflate monthly bills. (Users likely will still want to keep track of data through their mobile carrier, but this interface offers a handy cheat sheet. )
The Windows 8 products for phone, PC, and tablets are built for cross compatibility, which could help, say, a Windows 8 tablet become a staple among business users. A recent Boston Consulting survey revealed that tablet owners currently shun working on tablets because they don’t accommodate Windows. Forthcoming releases of mobile versions of popular work products, such as Microsoft Office, will answer that demand.
Naturally, there will be a long drum roll of marketing activity, and probably some confusion, leading to the official release of 8. Beta testing opens for Windows 8 later this month, with an Office 15 beta to follow in summer. The early reviews could be what makes or breaks the products.
Will Microsoft’s new offerings knock Android or iOS out of the market? No, though they may help deepen the hole BlackBerry phone maker Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) will have to dig out of if it is going to survive. There’s a better chance that the products will finally offer Microsft a strong foothold in the mobile world. Investors seem optimistic about the chances: Microsoft ended the week with a new 52-week high of $30.40.
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