Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) will formally launch Windows Phone 8 on Oct. 29, according to a ZDNet report, with smartphones running the platform making their way into consumers hands shortly thereafter in November.
The report, citing an unnamed source, comes from the reliable Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, and indicates that Microsoft is likely to hold an event on the West Coast Oct. 29 to officially inaugurate the commercial availability of Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has only said that the platform will launch this fall.
Windows Phone 8 features a number of enhancements over previous iterations of the platform, including additional control over the look and feel of the home screen and support for new services such as NFC.
A November launch would come after the rush of orders for the next iPhone, which Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is rumored to be unveiling Sept. 12. However, Microsoft will still likely have to contend with the iPhone as well as new smartphones running Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android as it competes for holiday sales.
Samsung Electronics yesterday officially unveiled the first Windows Phone 8 smartphone at the IFA conference in Berlin, dubbed the Ativ S. The gadget sports a 4.8-inch AMOLED screen, 1.5GHz dual-core processor and support for HSPA+ 42 networks. Samsung did not discuss the gadget's pricing or whether it would be available in the United States.
In revealing the Ativ S, Samsung beat Microsoft's chief hardware partner Nokia (NYSE:NOK) to the punch; Nokia is expected to unveil its own first Windows Phone 8 devices on Sept. 5. However, Microsoft was careful to note in a company blog post that the Ativ S "is just the first in a big lineup of new hardware that's coming with Windows Phone 8." And, as The Verge notes, a stronger Windows Phone ecosystem with more enthusiasm around it can only benefit Nokia, which has staked its future on Windows Phone. Nokia even had employees at Samsung's event with signs that read, "Samsung: Nokia welcomes you back to Windows Phone." Most of Samsung's smartphones run Android.
Some observers have said that Microsoft and Nokia will benefit from Apple's $1 billion patent-infringement win against Samsung. Still other analysts are less optimistic, given that the platform has less than 3 percent of the global smartphone market, according to Gartner.
"Our research shows that for many years, poor sales of Windows-based phones stem from a deep and stable lack of consumer interest for the product," Bernstein Research analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote in a research note. "Despite numerous and repeated efforts of manufacturers (Nokia, but also Samsung and HTC) and Operators to develop an alternative to Android and Apple based on Windows, and despite the launch of numerous phones based on Windows with strong features, reviews and marketing support, the operating system remains cornered to less than 5 percent market share in smartphones."
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