Analysis: Windows 8 Now Playing On A Phone Near You

Multi-touch capability, tiles to tap to launch apps with the press of a button, and an aggressive plan to woo app developers are all pieces of the Windows 8 proposal that are now on the market in Microsoft’s smart device platform Windows Phone 7. While Windows Phone 7 has launched to tepid (at best) sales numbers, it provides a tantalizing number of hints as to what we can expect when Windows 8 launches next year, including:

Office And SharePoint Integration

While Microsoft has made its Exchange technology available for other platforms, including Apple’s iOS for iPhones and iPads, it has kept its Office and SharePoint franchises to itself. On Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has provided native access to them, and they work well. Count on the same for Office 365 once Microsoft takes that out of beta and puts it into general availability;

An App Market

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Although it’s infinitesimally smaller than Apple’s iTunes App Store, Microsoft has delivered its own app store model for Windows Phone 7 that provides an array of software that’s available with a couple of taps on the screen. When Windows 8 for tablets launches, count on this being much more mature than it is now and with apps available in key categories including productivity, business, GPS and more.

Xbox Live Integration

Microsoft has continued to get less credit for its Xbox gaming franchise and social gaming platform than it should, but that could change once Windows 8 for tablets launches. Xbox is now included, out of the box, on Windows Phone 7; although it’s not as graphics-friendly on a smart phone screen, it works and will be a killer service if included natively in Windows 8 for Tablets.

Add those features together, and then, for good measure, throw in Skype with video chat and a 170-million installed base of users (which Microsoft just agreed to buy), and Microsoft could make up a lot of lost ground on Apple in the smart device space very quickly.

That’s also not to mention what Microsoft plans to do with Bing in Windows 8 for tablets, which could be a lot. Microsoft has already created a Bing app for the iPad, with some very nice features, so one can imagine what is in store for Bing next year on Microsoft’s own platform.

All of this, of course, must be put into the perspective of Microsoft’s task of competing with Steve Jobs and Apple -- a combination that has single-handedly changed technology use patterns the world over since launching iPhone in 2007. Microsoft has already shown signs of learning from Jobs and Apple by putting much of the Windows 8 for tablets functionality into Windows Phone 7, now available to anyone who wants to try it out now without waiting.