SEATTLE — Microsoft Corp's new phone software will be built on the same core as its new upcoming PC and tablet operating system, bringing the company one step closer to unifying its Windows franchise across a full range of screens that are revolutionising computing.
The world's largest software company, which is running to keep up with Apple Inc's iPhone and Google Inc's Android devices, said the common core means customers will have a greater choice of phones and applications, and be able to switch between multiple machines more easily.
The move follows the launch of the Surface tablet on Monday, Microsoft's effort to join the fast-growing mobile computing market and to tackle Apple's iPad head on.
At an event in San Francisco on Wednesday, Microsoft officially announced its new phone software, called Windows Phone 8, and said phones running the software would hit the market this autumn.
The new phones — made by handset makers Nokia, Samsung Electronics, HTC Corp and Huawei on Qualcomm dual-core chips — will feature voice commands, Skype calling, near-field communication (NFC) for wireless transactions and built-in maps for GPS directions. Microsoft's voice recognition feature goes beyond Apple's rival Siri service by allowing users to issue commands to apps, not just the phone's core operating system.
The new software will support NFC transactions — in which the user taps a reader to make a purchase — but Microsoft is leaving it to independent software makers to write the actual applications controlling the process, meaning it will not be a direct competitor to the Google Wallet service for Android phones.
Microsoft's new phones will have an updated, customisable start screen in Microsoft's new 'Metro' style, which centres on touchable 'tiles', or colourful squares, representing people, applications and services which update in real time, for example showing Facebook posts or new e-mail.
The Metro style is also the interface for Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system — designed to run on both tablets and traditional PCs — which Microsoft is expected to launch around October. The success of the phones partly depends on the marketing support they get from carriers. — Reuters