At an event in San Francisco, Microsoft today fully took the wraps off of Windows Phone 8 after a brief peek back in June to showcase some of the new platform enhancements.
The first devices go on sale starting in November.
"Microsoft is excited for the world to meet the new Windows Phone," said Terry Myerson, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Phone Division.
"We set out to create the most personal smartphone there is, focused on keeping you closer to the people and things that matter most," he said. "It's also the best phone for Windows, helping you stay connected across devices. And finally, of course, there's the hardware. We have a killer lineup of new phones featuring big bright screens, awesome audio capabilities and great cameras from HTC, Nokia and Samsung."
Windows Phone features a highly customizable Start screen and Live Tiles, said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management. People can pin their favorite people, apps, games and music right to the Start screen, and colorful Live Tiles will light up with real-time information and updates.
A new lock screen that shows app content, such as sports scores, news or favorite photos, rather than a static image, was another of the features shown Monday.
The new features in Windows Phone 8 offer something for everyone, Belfiore said. For people with children, Kid?s Corner offers a worry-free way for parents to share their smartphone when the kids start clamoring to play Angry Birds. A simple swipe activates a protected place on the phone where kids can play on specific apps and features selected by a parent.
Families and friends will also enjoy the new Rooms feature, which lets people create a private network to chat and share photos, notes, calendars and other content with a close group of people, not your entire social network.
In addition to the new software features, the Windows Phone Store has 120,000 apps to choose from, with hundreds more coming this holiday season, such as "Angry Birds Star Wars," "Cut the Rope Experiments," "Disney's Where's My Water," "LivingSocial," "Temple Run," "Urbanspoon" and many more. Today, Microsoft announced that Pandora Internet radio service is coming to Windows Phone in early Q1 2013 with one year of ad-free music.
Microsoft also announced Data Sense, which helps users manage their smartphone data usage. Belfiore said the app had helped testers get 45 percent more Web browsing before hitting their data limit with the feature switched on. To work, the feature needs carrier support. Verizon will be the first carrier in the U.S. to support it.
Windows Phone 8 was designed to be a companion with Windows 8, Myerson said. Windows and Windows Phone now share common underlying technology, which allows for shared tools, increased hardware support for multicore processors and a wide range of other platform capabilities.
That underlying technology between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 now allows developers to create native C++ code - a shared development model that makes porting Windows apps and games relatively easy.
Attracting a large number of developers is key. Microsoft has been making an SDK available to some under a program, but Belfiore said the software company will on Tuesday announce a freely available SDK for the platform.
"We expect the hundreds of millions of Windows 8-based tablets and PCs sold next year to raise consumer awareness of the new Windows UI pioneered by phone," Myerson said. "We believe more developers will target the Windows family now that we've made it easier to target a range of exciting new devices - from phones to tablets to PCs - running software that people ask for by name."
Another feature of the Windows family is Microsoft's personal cloud based service, SkyDrive. Now photos, Office documents and music are always in sync and available across all Windows devices.
The new Xbox Music service offers anytime, anywhere access to albums, songs and playlists whether you?re on your Xbox console, your Windows Phone or a Windows 8 PC or tablet. And entertainment gets even more interactive with Xbox SmartGlass, which turns your mobile phone or tablet into a second screen that intelligently interacts with your Xbox 360.
HTC, Nokia and Samsung have all introduced new Windows Phones that will start hitting the streets in November.
The Samsung ATIV S is wrapped in brushed aluminum with the largest Windows Phone screen to date at 4.8".
The designers behind HTC's Windows Phone 8X and 8S saw Windows Phone 8's Live Tiles and were inspired to build the phones from the ground up with the same modern lines and radiant colors.
Nokia's Lumia 920 packs a great camera into a phone. It?s the first phone to have Optical Image Stabilization along with Nokia's Carl Zeiss optics. The Lumia 820 is a phone for people who want to show color in their lives with swappable back plates in vibrant colors. Both Lumia phones are the first modern smartphones with wireless charging.
Myerson expressed confidence that Windows Phone 8 was primed to make headway against competitors such as iPhone and Android.
"The best thing we can do is build a compelling product that people fall in love with," he said. "We think we have done that with Windows Phone 8."