Continuing with its blitzkrieg of all things Windows, Microsoft held an event for Windows Phone 8 in San Francisco today. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore and Steve Ballmer – and, yes, Jessica Alba – announced new features and where people can get their hands on Windows Phone 8 devices this November.
Apps by the numbers:
- Belfiore announced that the Windows Store now has over 120,000 apps, and that “hundreds” more are added each day.
- Apps are available in 50 languages and 191 countries.
- Belfiore demoed new Live Apps, which are a cross between the company’s signature (resizable!) Live Tiles and full applications that can integrate with the Wallet, the company’s payments solution, and other “hubs” (groups of apps or people).
- Using the Live Apps framework, developers are able to build versions of the app that can appear on the lock screen. The example given was a Facebook-equipped lock screen that shows different Facebook photos each time the phone is unlocked.
- “Think about how many times you take your phone out of your pocket, you turn it on, and you see your lock screen, and you’re seeing that same old image that you put on there months ago. Kinda boring.”
- “The new lock screen is going to make that phone feel so much more personal, because each time you take it out, it’s going to feel that much more relevant to you.”
- Belfiore announced a slew of new apps, Angry Birds “Roost,” PayPal, Twitter, The Weather Channel, Photosynth, Chase, CNN, Angry Birds Star Wars, Where’s My Water, and more.
- Microsoft has also worked with Facebook to bring a new, Live Apps-capable version of the social networking app to Windows Phone 8 devices.
- “We think that, with the launch of these apps, we will be at a point where we have 46 of the top 50 most heavily-used apps on other platforms on Windows Phone.”
- Pandora will be shipping with Windows Phone 8 “early in 2013.” Microsoft has partnered with the company to provide Windows Phone 8 users with one year of ad-free music.
- The new Skype app is “always on,” meaning that it’s ready to receive a call or message at any time. Belfiore claims that the service is able to do this without draining the phone’s battery and constantly running in the background.
- With Data Sense, Microsoft has built a system in the cloud and on the phone client that compresses every Web page browsed. The process sounds similar to that used by Amazon’s Silk browser, which shipped with the Kindle Fire, and the Opera browser available on Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android.
- The feature helps users find WiFi hotspots that they can use instead of relying on cellular data.
- Belfiore says that Data Sense will automatically adjust the way that the device uses data when a user nears their monthly data limit.
- Data Sense users, Belfiore says, were able to access 45 percent more Web pages with the same data limit as people that don’t have the feature.
- Microsoft is working with carriers to deploy Data Sense, and the first company to support the feature is Verizon.
- Kid’s Corner, in a nutshell, creates a separate “place” on your phone specifically for kids. Parents will be able to allow or block apps and games from appearing in Kid’s Corner, which is accessed via swiping to the left in the lock screen.
- Belfiore brought Jessica Alba out to talk about how much she loves Kid’s Corner and Windows Phone 8 as a whole (and to plug The Honest Company’s upcoming app).
- Rooms is a new feature that allows users to group and interact with certain people on their phone more easily. Windows Phone 8 will ship with a pre-installed “Family” room, but Belfiore says that users can create and define their own rooms as well.
- Through Rooms, users can share notes and calendars with each other – Belfiore specifically cited a running grocery list that he and his wife use to stay on top of what they need to buy.
- Rooms work across platforms; an iPhone user that is added to a Room can enjoy similar features to users on Windows Phone 8.
- “This year, Windows, from the PC to the tablet and the phone and the Xbox, will not only look and feel the same way, but will also work together in concert in a lot of compelling ways.” (More on this over here.)
- With Windows Phone 8, you can move your documents, photos, and music across all your devices wherever you are, Belfiore says, and the “key player” to all of that is SkyDrive.
- Belfiore took a dig at Apple’s iCloud, saying that its SkyDrive service “isn’t just for photos and video – it’s the first cloud service that fully integrates and syncs your Office documents.”
- Next up came Lenses, Microsoft’s kinda-sorta Answer to Instagram. Share on Facebook, Twitter, on email, NFC. In the background, a full-resolution version of the photo is uploaded to SkyDrive.
- SkyDrive gets you started with the most free storage of any service, with 7GB and “gives you complete control over your photo content,” Belfiore says. He compared this to iCloud and Photo Stream, which will only store up to 1,000 photos for 30 days or less.
On being late, and hardware:
- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage to explain why the company might be a bit late to the smartphone wars, saying: “We had a very different perspective on what a smartphone can be. We didn’t want to build just a single phone for all of us. We wanted to build a phone that could be unique for each of us.”
- Windows Phone 8 devices will go on sale this weekend.
- Verizon will sell the Windows Phone 8X and the Lumia 822 by Thanksgiving, and it will sell Samsung’s Ativ Odyssey exclusively some time in November.
- T-Mobile will be selling Nokia’s Lumia 810 and the Windows Phone 8X.
- AT&T has the exclusive on the new Lumia 920 and Lumia 820 devices from Nokia, and will also be selling HTC’s Windows Phone 8X.
- Microsoft will be selling every Windows Phone 8 device in its 65 Microsoft Stores across the country.
[Image courtesy vernieman]