Page 2 of 2
Microsoft is hoping to fight back against its rivals by first expanding its Windows Phone ecosystem of apps; according to Belfiore, there are now more than 120,000 apps available for Microsoft's OS, a number that is growing by the "hundreds" every day.
What's more, Microsoft is hoping to lure consumers with new Windows Phone-specific features, such as Data Sense, a tool that tracks data usage and warns users when they are close to exceeding their monthly data caps. Belfiore said the new tool also allows Windows Phone 8 devices to compress web pages to keep data usage at a minimum, while also alerting users of nearby WiFi hot spots they can use to conserve cellular data. All in all, Belfiore said the new Data Sense feature allows Windows Phone 8 devices to use 45 percent less data than competing smartphones.
Another new feature exclusive to Windows Phone 8 is Kid's Corner, a separate mode users can select and populate with curated content for children.
A number of smartphone makers including Samsung, HTC and Nokia have already unveiled phones running the new Windows Phone 8 OS. For Nokia, the stakes are especially high; the Finnish handset maker has been struggling to keep up with rivals Apple and Google after pledging its allegiance to Microsoft's mobile OS in February 2011.
Nokia has based its upcoming Lumia 920 smartphone on Windows Phone 8, while its existing Lumia devices will be upgraded to a water-downed version of the new OS, called Windows Phone 7.8. Smartphones running prior-generation Windows Phone releases are not upgradeable to Windows Phone 8 because they lack certain hardware requirements, such as support for higher-resolution displays, multi-core processors, and near-field communication, Microsoft has said.
Microsoft's Ballmer said smartphones running Windows Phone 8 will start launching this weekend in Europe, and will U.S. availability slated for next month.