US software giant Microsoft has unveiled its latest operating system for mobile handsets, Windows Phone 8. The announcement was made in the same week as the firm launched its Surface tablet device, which runs on the flagship Windows 8 operating system for PCs and tablets.
The mobile OS shares common code with Windows 8, and has a similar tiled interface. It also shares common networking, security, media and web browser technology, and a common file system with the PC and tablet version.
“That translates into better performance, more features, and new opportunities for app developers and hardware makers to innovate faster,” said Joe Belfiore, manager of the Windows Phone program at Microsoft.
However, existing Lumia handset owners will not be able to update to the new operating system.
The mobile OS supports NFC technology and features a digital wallet that holds access to a user’s debit and credit card details, coupons and boarding passes. When paired with a secure SIM, the wallet allows users to pay for products in store by tapping their phone at compatible checkout counters.
In addition, Windows Phone 8 supports multiple core processors and two new screen resolutions – 1280×768 and 1280×720 – so users can view content in 720p HD displays. Windows Phone devices will also support MicroSD slots for additional storage, improved maps and directions, courtesy of Nokia’s mapping platform and the IE10 web browser – the same browser that will be used in Windows 8 PCs and tablets. In addition, Microsoft has announced that it now offers 100,000 apps and games.
Malik Saadi, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media believes that the new OS will challenge the “ageing Apple iOS”. He said that smartphones running the WP7 platform have been missing some of the most innovative features necessary to win the heart of advanced users – the “super-smartphone” owners in particular.
“WP8 addresses the majority of these issues and could be a game changer,” he said. “A number of vendors and developers have said they were holding off until WP8 is ready.”
He added that the introduction of WP8 is very likely to attract mobile operators that want to see another major player in the smartphone market, dominated by Apple and Android’s ecosystems.
“Challengers including Huawei and ZTE have also said they would not seriously engage with Microsoft until Windows Phone 8 was ready as this could potentially take the focus away from the Android platform.
HTC, Huawei, Nokia and Samsung will all manufacture handsets running on the platform, easing shareholders’ fears that Nokia’s partnership with the company will put off other manufacturers. Huawei said it will be launching a handset on the platform before the end of 2012, and reports claim that the Chinese firm is looking to strengthen its ties with Microsoft in the tablet space as well.
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