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Microsoft unveils new Windows 8 phone, updates app offerings

Microsoft and Nokia unveiled Nokia’s Lumia 920, a

Microsoft and Nokia unveiled Nokia’s Lumia 920, a phone that operates on Windows 8 and features a 4.5-inch screen and an 8.7-megapixel camera, at an event this past fall in San Francisco. (Oct. 29, 2012) Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. unveiled a new version of its software for smartphones today, redoubling an effort to regain market share lost to Apple Inc. and Google Inc.

New features include a new Pandora Media Inc. app with a year of advertising-free Internet radio, a program that helps customers use less of their wireless data capacity and an app that lets parents control what programs and features their children can use, Microsoft vice president Joe Belfiore said today at an event in San Francisco.

Windows Phone 8 software, running on devices with better screens and more powerful chips, will rely for the first time on the same underlying programming code as the flagship Windows operating system. Microsoft, with just 3.5 percent share of the smartphone market in the second quarter, seeks to close a gap with Apple’s more popular iOS and devices from Samsung Electronics Co. and other makers that use Google’s Android.

“The platform looks very competitive,” Al Hilwa, an analyst at research firm IDC, said of Microsoft’s new lineup. Hardware will be “on par with iOS and Android devices” in terms of power, screen resolution, camera and data speeds, he said.

Nokia Oyj’s Lumia 920, featuring a 4.5-inch (11-centimeter) screen and an 8.7-megapixel camera, will run on Windows Phone 8. HTC Corp. (2498) will sell two devices -- the Windows Phone 8X and the 8S -- which sport a new design, better audio and a wide-angle camera.

App Availability

Windows Phone now has 120,000 apps, including 46 of the top 50 on rival phones, Belfiore said. Pandora, for example, had been a longtime holdout.
The smartphone experience hasn’t evolved beyond a home screen with icons, while Microsoft chose a new design using tiles showing pictures and information, Belfiore said.

“With Windows Phone we decided not to use that tired old metaphor,” he said.

There are more than 700,000 apps on Apple’s store, including more than 275,000 specifically for the iPad tablet computer. There are about 675,000 apps for Android devices, Google has said.

Operating on phones with a dual-core chip and high definition screens, Windows 8 supports near-field communication technology, which lets customers use phones to make payments. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft initially discussed some of the features in June.

The new Windows Phone 8-based devices are aimed squarely at Apple’s iPhones, which have a market share of 17 percent, as well as smartphones based on Google’s Android software, which accounted for 68 percent of the market, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based IDC.

Apple’s Popularity

The iPhone 5 sold 5 million units in its debut weekend, or about the same number of Windows Phone devices shipped in the entire second quarter, based on IDC’s data.

Consumers heading into the U.S. year-end holiday shopping season are being offered a bounty of choices. Apple began selling the iPhone 5 last month with a bigger screen, lightweight body design and faster processor, and Google will unveil today new versions of its Nexus smartphone and tablet, which showcase Android’s latest features.

Windows Phone software has declined in annual market share for the past three years, according to IDC data compiled by Bloomberg Industries, even in 2010 when it was revamped. There is some growth, with second quarter market share climbing from 2.3 percent a year earlier, according to IDC.

Mobile Shift

Still, Microsoft as a whole is grappling with the shift to mobile computing, with first fiscal quarter profit and sales missing analysts’ estimates. For the first time in a decade, the total PC market will contract this year, by 1.2 percent to 348.7 million units, according to IHS ISuppli.

Microsoft, which is revamping its software across the board, introduced Windows 8, a new version of its software for PCs, last week. With the suite of new software, the company is aiming to push Windows, which dominated the market over the past two decades by running on nine out of every 10 personal computers, into mobile computing.

Microsoft shares advanced 1.2 percent to close at $28.21 in New York on Friday, and are up 8.7 percent so far this year. Trading was canceled today due to a hurricane on the east coast.


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