Microsoft has now officially launched its latest mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8.
Despite its name, Windows Phone 8 is a different system than the Windows 8 operating system the company launched last week. It does, however, work more closely with Windows PCs and shares the same overall aesthetic. It’s also built with a version of Internet Explorer 10 and the Microsoft-owned video chat program Skype.
Microsoft is taking a big bet with all of its core businesses and making its mobile operating system a higher priority for the company.
The Redmond, Wash., firm currently has just over 3 percent of the smartphone market, according to the latest figures from IDC, but is hoping to crack the iOS-Android duopoly of Apple and Google. The new platform closes some of the gaps in performance between Microsoft and its chief competitors, but it’s not clear yet how well that will transfer to market share gains.
It has some advantages. Windows has a deep bench of developers, meaning that it will be able to add programs quickly to its all-important app store.
The company announced Monday that it will carry 46 out of the top 50 smartphone apps, CNET reported, including Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, Angry Birds and more. Microsoft now has 120,000 apps in its store — an impressive figure, even if it does fall far behind Google’s 675,000 and Apple’s 700,000.
Microsoft also has some of the world’s largest phone manufacturers throwing their product lines behind Windows Phone, including Samsung, HTC and Nokia — all of whom have announced smartphones for the platform at launch.
Finally, the company has taken steps to integrate its phones with its new operating system. For example, Microsoft has said that users will be able to edit documents and playlists on their phones and have those changes available on their PCs — and vice versa.
Al Hilwa, an applications development analyst for IDC, said that he believes Microsoft’s integration and outreach to developers will help the company overcome its slow start in the smartphone market.
“The phone market appears to renew itself regularly since people change their phones relatively often compared to other categories of computers,” Hilwa said in a research note. “Based on what we saw today actually, the platform has been re-invented and looks incredibly strong at this point.”
If developers can add apps to the platform quickly, he said, Microsoft could make much-needed inroads in the segment.