updated 02:09 pm EDT, Mon October 29, 2012
Year of ad-free Pandora, data management system added to WP8
In a media event today, Microsoft officially revealed the newest version of Windows for mobile phones, Windows Phone 8. Joe Belfiore, Microsoft's Windows Phone Program manager, took the stage early to explore the OS' new features, as well as to explore how Windows Phone 8 would help users manage their data plans, control access for whole families, and manage their social media activities. Belfiore also made certain to highlight the app ecosystem for the new OS, as well as how Microsoft has tailored its platform to allow users to personalize their devices with a range of apps and features.
Belfiore noted that the Windows Phone Store now hosts over 120,000 apps. That total lags considerably behind the much larger app stores for Apple's iOS and Google's Android platforms, but Belfiore stated that Windows Phone would have 46 of the top 50 apps used on other platforms. He pointed out Temple Run, Urban Spoon, Angry Birds Star Wars, and Jetpack Joyride as indicative of the sort of top-selling app that would appear on Microsoft's new platform. Belfiore also made special note of music radio service Pandora, revealing that Windows Phone 8 users would have ad-free access to the app for a full year.
In addition to the aforementioned apps, Facebook and Twitter will be providing new apps for WP8, and Microsoft's Skype will run constantly in the background of Windows Phone 8, allowing for messages and calls to be received even when the app isn't being used.
To improve mobile Internet usage for its customers, a component called Data Sense uses a combination of data compression, data usage tracking, and Wi-Fi hotspots to educate the user in where the data allowance is going, as well as preventing unnecessary data allowance usages. A tab marked App Usage explains how each application on the handset uses data, showing both Wi-Fi and cellular usages separately. As the month goes on and the user gets closer to their data limit, the phone will ratchet up the amount of compression being used in pages being viewed, something that Microsoft claims will give users 45-percent more usage of their data allowance than they would have had otherwise.
A guest user account has also been included in Windows Phone 8, specifically for children. Going under the name Kid's Corner, the account allows users to choose what applications and media can be shown. To demonstrate the new feature, Microsoft brought on stage actress Jessica Alba, who related an anecdote in which her child accidentally posted to her Twitter account. Kid's Corner, Alba and Belfiore explained, would prevent that from happening thanks to its parental controls.
The People hub from earlier Windows Phone iterations has been changed into Rooms, where group-based messaging, appointments and notes are shared among a number of people. It was demonstrated to have some cross-platform connectivity, with an iPhone being used to view calendar appointments from a single room, though an Android version was not mentioned.
The cross-platform theme continued into a talk about moving documents, photos and music across multiple Windows devices, SkyDrive use, connectivity with the Xbox, and the OneNote productivity app. Xbox Music also received a mention, with the Xbox Music Pass letting users stream from a 30 million-strong song catalog.