By
Tim Bichara

Navigating Windows Phone 8

Windows Phone 8, the 'screen agnostic' Microsoft operating system, meaning it doesn't care what device you're using, it should work seamlessly, has become the most anticipated platform release that ever was. The International Data Corporation predicts that by 2016, Windows Phone 8 will be the second most popular OS in the world, overtaking Apple’s iOS. It has been pre-released, and pre-released and pre-released... but its launch on smartphones is now scheduled for 25 October.

Although it might be hard to imagine a world where Apple and Google aren’t fighting alone for hearts and minds – anyone remember when Apple was just a computer company? – the ‘other’ handset makers are jostling to be market leader running Microsoft’s platform ahead of the festive season 2012. A fully mobile Christmas!

The Nokia Lumia 920 was tipped as the flagship phone for long waiting Microsoft fans, but HTC also has its eyes on the prize, announcing handsets which its CEO called their ‘hero’ phones, said to be more high-end than HTC has ever delivered before. The companies are expected to go head-to-head in November. So would you go for a trusted old favourite, or the guys who brought Android to the masses? Or actually, do Microsoft’s strict design guidelines, with a distinctive and carefully controlled visual language, mean that the choice of handset doesn’t even matter?

Unlike Google’s Android, which comes in different flavours depending on the device model, Windows Phone 8 is an attempt to create a powerful mobile brand in a cluttered marketplace. The company also wants to exceed the standards of apps, ads and services delivered by other OS providers to date.

Developing for Windows Phone 8 will be a fantastic opportunity, which looks set to be the next mini revolution in the mobile world. It is hoped that the common user-experience created will give Windows Phone 8 owners the sense of community reserved for Apple users rather than Android.

The challenge for app designers and brands is working to balance the strong identity of Microsoft with that of company branding. This will mean a total rethink from the brand up to make the most of what the OS offers – not the porting that some have become used to in after thoughts that have ‘transformed’ an iOS app to Android.

And what of the Microsoft Surface tablets? The range is set to launch this Friday and the company is reported to be putting £1.2bn towards advertising its touchscreen devices.

Microsoft is a highly trusted consumer brand, but it is entering the serious mobile race a little late. In the first six months of 2012, 300m Android phones were sold, with Apple shifting 115m iPhones, while only 10m older Windows phone models left the shelves.

As you won’t be able to upgrade older Windows models when the OS finally (finally) launches, perhaps some have decided this was worth waiting for. Or have they just gone off and bought an iPhone 5…?

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