At today’s Windows Phone 8 launch in Sydney, Australia, Microsoft hosted its three major partners, Nokia, Samsung and HTC, who brought along the smooth and sweet Windows Phone 8 handsets that will be in retail stores from late November onwards – our live blog of the local launch can be read here.
These are the same three partners were at Microsoft’s US launch event, showing off the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820, the Samsung Ativ S, which is like a Windows Phone 8 version of the Galaxy SIII, and the HTC 8X and 8S, with all three landing at various telcos in Australia from the end of November and in early December.
We live blogged the Windows 8 Launch event in San Francisco live here, which also contains links to watch the Windows Phone 8 launch event again as a recorded stream if you want to watch the event as intended.
When it comes to Microsoft’s new tablet, PC and smartphone operating systems, Microsoft knows how to be late – but it also knows how to bounce back.
It was late with the shift to the Internet in 1995, late with IE 6 updates for years – and is still fighting market share battles with Google Chrome and Firefox.
Microsoft is certainly not alone in being late, RIM’s not due to launch BlackBerry OS 10 smartphones until reportedly towards the end of Q1, 2013 – something RIM’s people surely aren’t happy about, but aren’t simply ready to proceed with yet – or they’d have done so already.
Still, Microsoft is launching in 2012 after all, late but still in time to genuinely compete, with European and US launches happening first and Australia catching up to launch by the end of November and in early December.
Microsoft’s major operating systems is now out there, running and starting a brand new battle for customer loyalty, customer service, best experience, security, regular updates, ever growing app libraries and plenty more.
It’s also interesting to note that Windows Phone 8 is Microsoft’s third go after Windows Phone 7.5 and 7.0 before it, and this is supposed to be the time that Microsoft finally gets its product right.
In addition, Microsoft should now be able to update and improve Windows Phone 8 far more rapidly than has ever been possible before.
It can do a major yearly OS update as iOS and Android are already doing, with smaller point updates as required, it could offer fast availability to OTA firmware and OS updates (if carriers and OEMs can work faster to pass relevant network tests), though to vastly improved hardware on a size and scale both big and large to take iPhones and Android on.
Windows Phone 8 can also do this without needing to tap the power of more power hungry quad core processors, which need to be specially programmed for to truly take advantage of all the quad coreage, as it were.
There’s also NFC, which is a core feature of the Windows Phone 8 experience, something I guessed had to be coming to the iPhone 5 but was held over to a future model, helping iPhone 5 be lighter and not be in the posting of helping NFC-enabled competitors.
Still, NFC is useful, and both Microsoft and Google, along with OEMs, banks, stores, etc are going to explore and develop the technology so we have digital wallets in our phones – something sure to get many more to set a strong password on their phones or at least wallet apps in case of loss.
Nokia’s excellent and accurate app data also powers Bing Maps on Windows Phone 8 devices, so there’s no maps debacle here to contend with, either.
Windows Phone 8 also represents a more powerful way to run a new class of more powerful apps, apps which can share 80% of the code of Windows 8/RT apps, meaning a tablet and smartphone app can integrate with each other and the Windows 8/RT OS seamlessly, as never before on Microsoft’s previous range of operating systems. .
While the Windows Phone 8 launch has now happened, with videos and live blogs released, there are still no phones on the ground beyond telco test models and whatever samples belong to Nokia, HTC and Samsung.
The Windows Phone 8 party can really start happening when retail and telco supplies of handsets land in Australian stores and in telco warehouses, ready to ship to customers, and it means a short wait of about four or so weeks more.
This wait will start stopping at the end of November for Nokia’s Lumia 920 (AUD $829 outright) and 820 ($649 outright) handsets in Australia, in early December for the Samsung Ativ S handset for $799 outright, and at a time and price yet to be disclosed for HTC’s 8S and 8X Windows Phone 8 models.
Naturally, all of these phones will be available from the various carriers on 24 month contracts and will fiercely fight this end-of-year season for as big a share of sales as possible.
This obviously hands iPhones and Androids even more time to tempt potential new owners into their ecosystems and away from Microsoft’s, although again, that’s the situation Microsoft faces and is dealing with - getting the word out now, ensuring a month’s worth more apps in the Windows Store upon actual launch, and before Australia, launching in Europe and the US.
Clearly, creating a market-challenging and both developer and ecosystem-friendly smartphone OS and then fine tuning it over three generations is a challenging thing in itself.
Getting it right is Microsoft’s best hope of “quickly” regaining ground in the smartphone and tablet wars with Apple and Amazon over the next year or two, and start pulling ahead – if Microsoft’s Windows 8-everything strategy works, which it should – even though previous efforts didn’t successfully deliver upon, delivering great lessons, data and information for Microsoft to improve its software with.
In the US launch, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke of having started “four years ago” to get to today’s Windows Phone 8, presumably encompassing and referring to Windows Phone 7.8, 7.5, 7.0 and the work done to get to that initial point post Windows Mobile 6.x,
If it was easy, Windows Phone 8 would have been delivered during the Windows Phone 7 timeframe, but clearly, that’s not what happened, and Microsoft has had to learn and improve the old fashioned way.
Five years after Apple released the iPhone, Microsoft has finally caught up, and then Apple delivers the iPad mini.
Is advantages are clear: it’s super light, the thinnest iPad yet, has 4G LTE, a smaller size and screen than iPad but bigger than 7-inch tablets, a more than fast enough A5 processor delivering the same CPU processing performance as the iPad 2 and 3rd-gen iPad, compatibility with 700,000+ iPhone apps and 275,000+ iPad-specific apps, and starts at US $329, or AUD $369.
A gazillion accessories having already started arriving, and integration as never before with AirPlay, Bluetooth, iCloud and through wired/Wi-Fi iTunes syncing to your Mac or PC based iTunes account, the Apple Remote app, Apple TV and everything else Apple does.
However, we all know that Microsoft certainly does have the scale and size to deliver as comprehensive a solution as Apple’s, extending into its own directions of “superiority”, including the new “Kids Corner” feature that Windows Phone 8, offers when parents hand their phone over to the kids, unmatched by iOS or Android as a standard feature in the way Microsoft has cleverly designed it.
Microsoft also now has its own 30-million track strong Xbox Music service along with a year of ad-free Pandora coming in 2013, and even “46 of the top 50 apps”, although Microsoft hasn’t yet mentioned what the four are, and what alternatives are already available in lieu of the competing app.
So, Windows Phone 8 handsets will arrive just in the nick of time to get at least three or four solid weeks of retail availability and pre Christmas 2012 sales.
Nokia’s Lumia 920 will offer a “PureView” camera that’s “the world’s only smartphone to include Optical Image Stabilisation”, and the smaller sized Lumia 820 model with a range of colourful interchangeable back shells – with both offering wireless charging, WinPhone 8’s customised lock screen and plenty more.
HTC’s 8X and 8S smartphones werte redesigned to look as sleek as a Windows 8 tile, with the 8X offering an “ultrawide” front facing camera lens for widescreen Skype conversations, letting more people be seen on your side to the person or people you’re talking to by video chat on the other side.
Both of HTC’s models have Beats Audio and built-in amps to boost the music coming out of your headphones.
Samsung’s ATIV S is the Galaxy SIII in Windows Phone 8 clothing, and straighter lines.
That means it looks great, it’s thin, it’s light, it even has a MicroSD slot that one model I saw had a 64GB card inserted – it’s clearly Samsung’s Galaxy SIII-inspired take on what its Windows Phone 8 model looks like and is a worthy contender against Nokia and HTC’s own excellent efforts.
All three companies had handsets for the media to play with and experience at today’s Australian Windows Phone 8 launch, and it’s clear to see that Windows Phone 8 is very slick, feels modern, advanced and genuinely different to iOS and Android,
So – while many reading are more than happy with iOS, and others still as happy as chirpy little R2D2 with the current state of the Droid nation, the WinPhone 8 OS rises.
It could well be a serious bane to the empires of iOS and Android– let alone what is yet to come from RIM as it seeks to save itself from the brim and get itself back in the great smartphone, tablet, cloud, data and mobile computing wars of the early 21st century.
Just as with tablets, the golden age of stunning smartphones from the top platforms and major brands continues glittering ever more brightly – good luck with your decision(s) on which platform(s) to buy into and which smartphone(s) to buy! :-)