Microsoft's Windows Phone 8: An iPhone killer?

The Week
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveils the new Windows Phone 8 on Oct. 29.
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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveils the new Windows Phone 8 on Oct. 29.

Microsoft has long struggled to break into the smartphone market, but now, its new operating system is winning rave reviews

Microsoft unveiled Windows Phone 8 at a conference in San Francisco on Monday, its latest effort to break into a smartphone market dominated by Apple's iPhone and Google's Android. WP8 boasts a bevy of improved features, including better synchronization with other Microsoft products, an updated home screen that features Windows Phone's trademark "live tiles," and access to 46 of the 50 most popular apps. WP8 will be featured on smartphones manufactured by Nokia, Samsung, and HTC, and will be sold by carriers T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. WP8 is already receiving positive reviews, though that's no guarantee of commercial success. Previous versions of the phone were well received, and Microsoft still commands a paltry 3 percent of the smartphone market.

Can WP8 become an iPhone killer? It certainly has some great featuressays the BBC:

[Microsoft] boasted that the system's internet browser, Internet Explorer 10, was the fastest on any mobile, and also suggested it offered the closest integration with video chat app Skype...

The firm also showed off Kid's Corner — a function designed for parents who give their handsets to their children to play with. It allows them to restrict access to a limited number of apps without giving access to email, phone call, or text message functions...
Another new feature is Rooms which allows users to create an invitation-only environment in which members share their calendars, notes, photos and other material. The firm suggested it might be used to help families, sports teams and other community groups stay "in sync".

However, WP8 still suffers from a lack of popular apps, says Steve Kovach at Business Insider:

As beautiful and accessible as Windows Phone 8 is, its app ecosystem pales in comparison to what you can find on the iPhone and Android. There's no Instagram. No Dropbox. No Pandora. And because of the relatively small number of Windows Phone users out there, developers almost always choose to make the latest and greatest apps for Android and iOS first. Windows Phone is an afterthought for many developers, if they're even thinking about it at all...

The sad part is, it won't be as good as it can be unless people start using it and developers decide to develop for it. But consumers go where the apps are and app developers go where the consumers are. It's a big chicken/egg problem for Microsoft and it still hasn't found a good reason to make you choose Windows Phone 8 over the competition.

And smartphone users may be locked into the phones they have, and reluctant to switch to the unique experience WP8 offers, says Roger Cheng at CNET:

SEE MORE: Will Microsoft's 'Xbox Music' be an iTunes killer?

One of the challenges is its unique user interface, which includes live tiles and bold fonts in the place of a grid of app icons. Microsoft is proud of its ability to stand out from Android and iPhone, calling this the new way of using a smartphone.

"We wanted to reinvent the smartphone around you," said Joe Belfiore, general manager of the Windows Phone program for Microsoft, on multiple occasions during the presentation.

But different means getting past the consumers' perceptions and assumptions for how a smartphone works, which hasn't always worked out so well for Microsoft and its partners.

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