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Under the hood of Windows Phone 8

Microsoft unveils its long awaited answer to the iPhone, Blackberry and Android

Hot on the heels of its Windows 8 launch event in New York, Microsoft Corp. weathered the east-coast storm and launched Windows Phone 8 from San Francisco, introducing its mobile OS as highly-personalized devices that plays along with Microsoft’s other products.

Microsoft has its work cut out for it to compete in a competitive smartphone market where Google’s Android is the worldwide leader, trailed by Apple’s iOS. But many analysts are projecting that within five years, Microsoft’s OS will be the second-most used after Android, surpassing its rival Apple. Perhaps that’s what gave Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president of Windows Phone Program Management confidence as he took the stage and called out his competitors.

“The smartphone user interface hasn’t evolved all that much in five years,” he said. “Apple sort of created the standard with the iPhone, and Android basically copied that experience.”

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Samsung launches the Smart PC and other Windows 8 products

To Microsoft’s credit, the new OS does look different. Instead of a screen of square icons leading to apps, the user is presented with various-sized rectangles that group content together. Dubbed tiles by Microsoft, there can also be live tiles that bring content and notifications to the home screen or even lock screen of the device. It creates a dynamic feeling for the device, but it’s a feature we’ve already seen on Windows Phone 7 and 7.5.

Microsoft did not even mention its earlier attempts at entering the smartphone market at today’s event. Likely because it has so far not succeeded in penetrating the marketplace, only capturing about four per cent globally. Also, by sharing the same core as Windows 8, Microsoft had made the new smartphone OS not compatible with apps developed for Windows Phone 7.

In Toronto, Rogers Wireless was announced as the preferred carrier for Windows Phone 8 devices. It announced several devices that will be exclusive to Rogers, including the Nokia Lumia 920 smartphone, Microsoft’s flagship device for the debut. The Lumia 920 goes on sale tomorrow, Oct.30, and Rogers says it is the first carrier in the world to be selling the device.

Also coming from Rogers is the HTC Windows Phone 8X and the Samsung ATIV S Smartphone and ATIV Smart PC. The ATIV Smart PC is actually a Windows 8 device similar to the Surface tablet. It can dock with a keyboard to take on a notebook form factor, or just be used as a touch screen tablet.