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IDG News Service - Windows Phone 8, Microsoft's new operating system for cellphones, was launched on Monday and with it the software company's hopes of reclaiming a portion of the fast-growing smartphone market.
Microsoft has been largely absent from the smartphone market during its most-recent years of explosive growth, but market watchers predict the company will soon start to gain share after Monday's launch.
At an event in San Francisco, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft and head of its phone division, presented new features of the operating system, and CEO Steve Ballmer presented new handsets.
"There's one more thing that sets Windows Phones apart," said Ballmer. "That is new, killer hardware."
The flagship of the Windows Phone lineup is the Nokia 920, built out of a partnership between the two companies. It will be available through AT&T in the U.S. in November.
Two other high-end smartphones, the Samsung Ativ S and HTC Windows Phone 8X, were previewed by Ballmer.
All three phones will be available in Europe from this weekend and in the U.S. will go on sale through Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile. Pricing and availability details are expected to be announced by carriers on Monday or soon after.
"The global launch of Windows Phone 8 is just starting," said Ballmer.
The software presents a very different home screen from the rows of icons found on Apple or Android phones and is a key design feature of the operating system.
Its design uses the same active tiles found on Windows 8, Microsoft's new PC operating system that launched Friday. The tiles are constantly changing with fresh information so, for example, a weather tile will update with the latest forecast while the email app will show the latest message received.
"The static grid of icons has been the standard on smartphones," said Belfiore. "We decided not to use that tired old metaphor. Our way is to put people at the center of the experience."
People users interact with can be given their own tiles so that the latest interactions on email or social media are updated.
"It's the most personal smartphone operating system you can get and keeps you closer to the people that matter most in your life because of that," he said.