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Tuesday, 30 October 2012 08:42

Windows Phone 8 - Australian launch LIVE BLOG event Featured

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A Windows Phone 8 smartphone - at the Australian launch A Windows Phone 8 smartphone - at the Australian launch Image Credit - photo by Alex Zaharov-Reutt

It's now Australia's turn to get a Windows Phone 8 launch, following the 4am (Australian time) global Windows Phone 8 launch that happened this morning in New York. Please read on and refresh your browser to read the latest details from the local launch!

It's time that of the year again - and now twice in one day - the launch of new technology, smartphone technology - this time from Microsoft and its brand new Windows Phone OS - complete with OS and range of smartphones from Nokia, HTC and Samsung

We covered the global Windows Phone 8 launch event live webcast this morning, 4am Australian time, which you can read all the details of here - as well as seeing the live recording of the keynote at Microsoft's Newsroom site and over at its Facebook page.

8.30am - arrived for the event, people milling around looking at the brand new Windows Phone 8 models, looking at NFC connections to Bluetooth headsets.

8.47am - people eating breakfast, waiting for the Australian Windows Phone 8 event to start. I've been typing up this introduction to the live blog.

8.50am - still waiting for the event to start, all the usual suspects of the Australian IT tech journo industry are here (hey, including me).

More soon... please hit refresh to keep updated.

8.55am - event hasn't started yet... :-)

8.58am - still waiting...

9.01am - Event has started! Introducing WIndows Phone 8 - why it is the best phone to use with Windows.
Ben Miller from Microsoft speaking...

Windows Phone 8 - it is the best phone, uniquely yours, tailor it uniquely to how you want to use it - an OS that is personal to you.

To help me demo this today - our team - Megan Howard head of Marketing, Brett Murray and Brett Gorman (I think!)

9.02am - Megan - great to see lots of familiar faces, she says. She's here today to talk about another part of the Windows ecosystem, and I was really pleased we were finally make the announcements overnight in San Francisco.

Personally this phone for me is "delighting". We've made it even more personable than Windows Phone 7.

I'm going to take you through a few key features overnight.

1. Greater integration and development of our live tiles - delivers a delightful glance and go experience. The thing it delivers most is that it connects me to the things and people I care for most. The People hub is the "contacts list" re-imagined.

Within the people hub - there are groups. We've created Rooms in WIndows Phone 8 - a more intimate experience. I use Rooms for my kids' soccer club, I use it with my group of girlfriends, use it as a shared shopping list - it provides a much more intimate experience so we're not doing it in the broad social network.

9.05am - We've also made it great for kids. It's called Kids Corner - a built-in feature - a rich and fun but worry-free environment for kids to experience Windows Phone. It's partitioned from the main section of Windows Phone - exclusively set up for kids - with games, apps, music, videos and more.

Let's get into the demo... so... There's lots of people here from Microsoft and our hardware manufacturers today. What I can tell you though is that none of these devices look the same. Windows Phone allows me to set my phone up so it is completely personal to me.

I've provisioned the lock screen so it tells me exactly what I want to see.

Then we go to the Start Screen. It looks and feels the same as Windows 8. On the start screen - it's alive. Alive with the people in my life and the things that matter most to me.

9.07am - I can re-size the tiles. One of my girlfriends is expecting a baby today - I know I won't get a phone call but I'm going to get a text message when it happens - I'm resizing and putting my message tile to the top so it's right there and can't be missed.

9.08am - What I'm showing you is that I'm able to, really simply and easily, manipulate the start screen to give me a glance and go experience with the people and things I care about most.

9.09am - "Bad Mummies" Group - Megan's girlfriends - that's a group. I've connected my girlfriends - you can see photos, social network updates, it's a sort of broadcast experience. We've created a much more intimate experience and involved the concept of groups into Rooms.

People hub - I have my social network feeds, I've got people I've connected to recently. In the Room, we can share calendar, photos and plenty more.

9.10am - Kids Corner. I've taken you into the provisioning screen - it shows me what content I have on the phone that I can put into Kids Corner. My son can get access to movies, music, TV shows, apps etc.

9.12am - Swipe to the right from the lock screen - and there's Kids Corner. Once my son is in this section - he cannot get out of this part of the phone to the main phone, he can't mess up my personal details or other settings.

9.13am - Brett will now explain how Windows Phone 8 is great for work.

Brett: I do think my Start Screen is better in Megan's. For me, Windows Phone 8 is the best device to work with a Windows 8 tablet - the same look and feel, tech core, cloud services etc. Whether it's tablet, PC or phone - it's all there. With SkyDrive, everything I want access to - photos, videos, documents - available across all devices.

We bring some of the best MIcrosoft consumer services to the device - Xbox, Bing, Skype, Internet Explorer and of course, Office.

9.14am - The Office Hub.

Full device encryption - supporting full mobile device management... whether it's allowing enterprises to deploy Company Hub on devices. We know that Windows Phone delivers a great productivity experience. I get a recent list of documents across all devices - I've always got access to the latest documents and I'll be resumed to where I was from any device.

Now something more fun - Xbox Music - recently we announced this new service which lets you have access to music across all your devices - Windows PC, TV with Xbox or Windows Phone.

One of the things I love - I can download music on my PC or tablet, create playlists, and those playlists and songs are automatically available across all devices. Easy and seamless.

Regardless of which device you purchase the music on, it's on all your devices. Xbox Music pass - unlimited access to streaming content and to download to my device.

9.17am - Wallet. Unlocking wallet with a pin - an area to store debit and other cards. I'm really looking forward to how our partners and developers will leverage this technology. I can transact on the device for apps and music thus far. We also support NFC - near field communications - to tap a Windows Phone to another NFC device to seamlessly share contacts and information for customers.

9.18am - The smartphones. Not having a handset with the best features is like having a stereo with dodgy speakers. New devices coming to market - sleek, leading specs and OIS - optical image stabilisation - (on Nokia Lumia).

9.19am - Nokia - Steve speaking. Nokia has made a big impact this year with Lumia - our two new Windows Phone 8 devices - Lumia 920 and 820 - reaching shelves in Australia by the end of November. Our operator and retail partners fully behind us. Telstra - Lumia 920 - Optus and Vodafone will get 820. Other retailers will have both. Since we made the announcement, consumer interest has reached new heights - the design, wireless charging, our leading mapping platform, 4G capability and the PureView camera technology on the Lumia 920 - bringing image stabilisation and low light performance.

City lens - augmented reality - see restaurant reviews, bars - the things around you that you may have missed. Please make sure you have a look at that. We're also excited by the range of partnerships in the accessories area - Fatboy, JBL and others.

We're also making waves in the business area - Bridgestone, Sara Lee and others - more new companies moving to Windows Phone surely soon.

9.22am - Short Nokia Lumia video

9.23am Next Guest - Antal Keur from HTC.

Antal - I'm really delighted to be here this morning. I'd like to introduce today the signature Windows Phones from HTC - the 8X and 8S. Both phones are very special to us - an iconic design, studio quality Beats audio and world class camera capabilities. Sits beautifully in your hand - a very thin feel, a magic experience.

We focus very much on the material finish - a beautiful polycarbonate back - matte soft touch and intimate finish. We focus not only on the texture and shape but the colour - the products will come with adventurous bold colours to allow these phones to complement your lifestyle.

Attention to detail: how the glass beautifully curves around and meets the polycarbonate. We've drilled 240 microphone holes so the sound comes beautifully into and out of the phone.

Sound - a very personal experience for the end-user. Both the WinPhone 8X and 8S will come complete with the Beats Audio experience. The 8X will also come with something to uplift musical experiences. Beats Amplifier - for the external speaker and the 3.5mm jack - clearer, crisper sound.

On the 8X - we really extend and do something really special with the front facing camera. Originally it was for video telephony - and to capture these candid "here I am shots".

With the 8X - we're introducing the same tech as the rear-facing lens - F2 lens and bigger sensor on the front - for amazing shots. As well as making it wide-angle lens - we can capture up to 4 people in a wideframe - 88 degree super wide angle front facing camera. 1080P for the front camera as well.

HTC Phone 8X - 341 PPI and optical lamination to reduce glare - Gorilla Glass 2 - High Def 4.3-inch 720P display.

Telstra 4G enabled 8X device - coming to Telstra and to Vodafone. And the Windows Phone 8S - coming to Telstra and Optus. Pricing announced in due course.

9.30am - Samsung Ativ S. Tyler McGee speaking from Samsung Australia.

We have smartphones, notebooks, tablets, PCs etc. We have an unrivalled range of products that operate in the Windows 8 environment.

Ativ S - sophisticated and powerful - delivering the ultimate smartphone experience - seamless functionality and superb viewing - advanced and easy usability - compatible across our range of Active devices - ideal for work and entertainment. 

High performance - 1.5Ghz dual core processor, HSDPA+ 42mbps 3.5G, MicroSD slot, 2300mAh battery, 8.7mm slim, 8 megapixel camera, dedicated shooting button. full HD video. Removable battery. Premium surfaces. 8.7mm slim.

9.32am - Ativ S - A standout 4.8-inch HD Super AMOLED screen - Gorilla Glass 2 - strong anti-scratch properties with enhanced touch sensitivity.

We're also delighted to be bringing Navigon to Ativ S - with Navigon users can transform their device into a GPS. Avaialble for free download through Samsung Zone WIndows Marketplace. Voice guided navigation - no data charges apply for using navigation - free map updates every 3 month for two years.

We also recently celebrated our 1 millionth Navigon activation in Australia. Users will love it.

Finally Ativ S will be available from early December with Optus as exclusive operator partner, also available for outright purchase from Samsung stores, key retailers and enterprise partners.

9.35am - Back to Microsoft person. Explaining how they think Windows Phone 8 is best, live tiles, live apps, people hub, kids corner and more - a great opportunity for success. Now opening the floor to questions.

9.36am - When is data sense coming to Australia? It's done on a carrier-by-carrier basis - more news to announce in the coming weeks that is ultimately coming to the Australian market.

What about the WIndows Phone 7.8 update? More features on that upgrade path in the coming weeks, nothing today.

Rooms feature - The calendar part of Rooms is available to other smartphones - works on Android and iPhones - there is functionality for rooms to work with other smartphone OS features.

Windows Phone market share south of 5%, your app base lower than anyone else's - are you thinking of offering an incentive for people on other ecosystems to move to Windows Phone, like spotting us $50 or $100 to move app stores. We have 120,000 apps today, 90% of the top apps used across all ecosystems available. That marketplace is growing rapidly on a daily basis. We have one of the highest velocities of app stores of any of the operating systems. To address the market share question - Friday you saw us announce globally Windows 8. And... we're starting to see a beautiful convergence across all the devices and screens that run Windows software - beautiful and integrated. Windows is still the most used OS on PCs. So we believe that that market share we hold in PCs will help us leverage - will impact people's purchasing design to what they will buy.

It hasn't in the past. No but now it's more compelling - Xbox Music, Sky Drive, look and feel is the same, learn it once and use it across all your screens - slate, PC, Xbox, phone. And to your question about incentivising offers - yes we are always exploring such things with hardware partners and telco operators.

Are we likely to see gift card stuff? I'm not in a position to disclose that at this point in time. But can you say if it's under discussion? It's under discussion.

SDK? The SDK was announced this morning. All 120,000 Windows Phone 7 apps run on Windows Phone 8. We have new tiles, new start screen, new lock screen - there are new features throughout the SDK for developers to look at. 80% of the code required to write Windows 8 app is usable when you develop a Windows Phone app - we know we're seeing good velocity in Windows 8 apps - and we believe that as that comes on - we'll continue to see strong growth in the Windows Phone marketplace.

Given the size and dominance of Apple and Android - is Microsoft fighting for third place in the market against Blackberry?

Yes - we are fighting with third place, but we're also fighting for first place!

Is this phone better for consumer or enterprise? I can work better in both environments with Windows Phone 8 - I really think this is a beautiful phone. I think we have an equal chance in both consumer and enterprise markets. The operators have been very encouraging in taking Windows Phone 8 to the enterprise. This phone will be adopted in enterprise more rapidly than it has been in the past.

You mentioned having 90% of the top apps. Windows phone apps often more expensive - what are you doing? I'm personally not doing anything, as for Microsoft - I don't know, I'll need to come back to you, but we look at the marketplace on a monthly basis so I will get back to you.

All touchscreen only - can hardware operators make phones with a qwerty keyboard and touch screen. For a consumer who has finished their contract, or nearly so - what's the one main feature of Windows Phone 8 to make them switch? Nothing planned for other non-touch form factors at this stage. The one feature I use more than anything and that really is a delight is the People Hub - all of my contacts and all of the ways I connect with them in one single place. I don't think about how I'm going to reach them - you step back from the tech and it becomes a connection with a person - for me it's the People Hub.

Upgrade path - what is the upgrade path for Windows Phone 8 to say Windows Phone 9? I can't comment specifically on the upgrade path for the new WIndows 8 Phones - 18 and 24 month update cycle, we will continue to provide updates in that period- can't talk to the future however.

Where does Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 begin - is it at 7-inches, would a phablet be Windows Phone 8 or Windows 8? Windows phone 8 is out smartphone OS - Windows 8 runs tablet and all-in-ones etc. Tablets start at 10-inch, with 4.8-inches to 5-inches for smartphones.

So there's a dead spot between 5-inches and 10-inches? Will it be Phone 8 or 8? It could be either - it depends on the hardware build - nothing more to say as yet.

Will Microsoft make phones as well? Our hardware partnerships are something we really value - in PCs and phones. I can't comment on plans or unreleased product but partners are very important to us. 

Thanks for joining us here this morning, your questions and attention - now time for the demonstrations.

The presentation ends and journalists return to checking out the new models from Samsung, HTC and, of course, Nokia.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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