I’m at the Windows Phone 8 launch event this morning in San Francisco, waiting in the lobby of the Bill Graham Civic Center with roughly 150 other members of the media. There are probably fewer in attendance than originally intended, due to Hurricane Sandy’s grip on the Eastern states, but the mood here is upbeat and we are looking forward to seeing how Microsoft will (hopefully) wow us this morning.
I’ll have more soon, we still have 15 minutes before the doors open …
And we’re in and seated.
Joe Belfiore is on the stage, welcoming us and saying that they are thrilled to be introducing what they think is their “most beautiful” and innovative phone lineup yet. They have worked really closely with Qualcomm to optimize the Windows Phone experience.
A lot of time and energy has also been spent on apps; there are over 120,000 in the Marketplace now, and 100s more come every day. They have doubled their language support to 50 languages, and they are tripling the number of countries who’ll have access to their App Store, to 191. This way “a lot more people will be able to get Windows Phone and experience it in their native language or country.”
Microsoft wanted to update the tired grid we’ve all grown so used to on our iPhone and Android screens. So they created a new way for people to connect with their phones, to put people as the focus of their design, not apps.
The heart and soul of WIndows Phone is people; keeping up with them by getting a sense of who they are and what they are doing through the convenience of a well-designed smartphone.
“It’s not just having a lot of apps to choose from, it’s being able to choose apps that light up and improve your smartphone experience, so that what you get really means more to you.”
“The smartphone reinvented around You”, a smartphone that will keep you close to the people most important to you in your life.
“We are not for everybody; we are for the individual.”
“Windows Phone is the most personal smartphone operating system you can get, and it keeps you closer to the people that matter most in your life because of that; it’s also the perfect companion for your Windows PC and XBox.
In Windows Phone 8, there is a new Lock Screen powered by your Live Apps. You get to choose what you see on your Lock Screen, including photos from an updated Facebook app. You can also pick from other apps to personalize your screen with content that you want to see. There is a new Twitter app, and Skype has been built to integrate fully into the Windows Phone 8 experience.
46 out of 50 of the most popular apps will be on Windows Phone. Some of them include Temple Run, Urban Spoon, Words with Friends, Draw Something …
And … Pandora in early 2013. It will include a whole year of free music with NO ads.
The free SDK will be available for download tomorrow.
Another new feature is Data Sense, which will help users stay in control of their data usage without any nasty data surprises.
The Live Tile shows you how much data is left, and Microsoft says you can get 45% more web browsing on the same data plan due to the way each page will be compressed.
Windows Phone 8 will have a built-in Kids Corner, which creates a separate place on your phone where kids can safely use the apps, music and other items you allow without having access to things you need to keep separated (access to texting your boss, for instance).
Joe’s three kids were brought out to demonstrate how Kid’s Corner works.
Jessica Alba is also here; they brought her out to talk about her experience with Kids Corner.
Jessica was an iPhone user, and one of her concerns when switching was her music, so she is talking about how easy it was to get her iTunes library onto her Windows Phone, and apropos of nothing, how much her friends like the Live Tiles on her phone.
Jessica has a new app launching in conjunction with her new company, Honest.com to help parents with their scheduling and other issues.
And she’s gone!
Now Joe is discussing Rooms, and how they can be set up to keep your closest friends and family updated with pictures and other items to share.
And because not everyone will have a Windows Phone, Microsoft has extended portions of the Room experience to work on other phones, so that you can allow others to share in the Room experience.
Windows Phone 8 is made to integrate perfectly with Windows 8 and XBox. SkyDrive is the star of this show, allowing saved items on one device to immediately be available on other devices.
SkyDrive gets you started with 7GB free, and you can add more if you are concerned about running out of space.
XBox music Pass will allow you to stream from a global catalog of 30 million songs. No syncing, no cables, no hassle.
Their focus on people is what Microsoft feels sets Windows Phone 8 apart.
And here’s Steve Ballmer, talking about how happy they are with the reception Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface Tablets have received over the last week, and how they are excited to bring Windows Phone 8 to the market. “We didn’t want to build a phone for all of us, we wanted to build a phone that was for each of us.”
Your Microsoft account is key to delivering the same experience on your PC, tablet, and phone.
Now Steve is running down the features of the Nokia 920 …
Now he is holding up a Samsung ATIV S …
And now he is holding and discussing the HTC Windows Phone 8X.
All these phones will go on sale, starting this upcoming weekend, and they will be in stores by mid November.
Between Windows 8, Microsoft Surface, and Windows Phone 8, Steve guarantees that you will not be able to turn on a TV or open a magazine without seeing a Windows ad. In not sure why this was worth cheers … But okay.
“People all over the world are about to fall in love with Windows Phone, and it starts today.”
And so that all of us who attended today can experience Windows Phone, they are giving one …
I received an HTC 8X, so the review will be coming soon.
Now we are into the hands-on experience and lunch. I’ve been able to play with the new Samsung ATIV S phone and Samsung’s Windows 8 tablet …
And to show how perfectly the three devices integrate, there was also a Samsung laptop running Windows 8.
Actually, the experience is pretty slick. My only real objection to the Samsung devices is that they do not feel good; backs are plasticky and they don’t have the substantial and solid “feel” that the Nokia and HTC devices have.
Nokia has three phones present, the 920 (which I want very much after handling) …
… The Lumia 820 …
… And the Lumia 822.
HTC had the 8X available to fondle …
… Along with the 8S.
If I were going out to buy a Windows Phone device today, based on how the devices felt in hand and the features they offered, I think I’d have to go with the Nokia Lumia 920, although it will seem a little too heavy and thick for some. If you want slightly smaller and sleeker, the HTC 8X will be. Great choice.
This just came in from Microsoft:
As part of today’s announcement, Microsoft unveiled new features, including Live Apps, Kid’s Corner, Rooms and Data Sense, along with details and pricing for a range of beautiful new smartphones from Samsung, Nokia and HTC, each with their own differentiated design, colors and unique features. The truly stunning and unique portfolio of new Windows Phone 8 devices will go on sale in November at AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon in the U.S. as well as carriers and retailers around the world.
With the same look and feel, the same technology core and the same Microsoft SkyDrive personal cloud service, Windows Phone 8 is built to work seamlessly with Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and the Xbox 360 console, providing compelling benefits for consumers, app developers, enterprise users and hardware manufacturers.
Get a sneak peek of Skype for Windows Phone 8, a seamless Skype experience that integrates features unique to Windows Phone 8 and will be available soon.
I’ll add more details from the keynote once I leave the event; I have so many notes to go through!
Are you excited by any of the new Windows Phones? Will you be getting one?