Microsoft shows off Windows 10 for mobile, as Nadella promises a wide range of phones

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) demonstrated how its forthcoming Windows 10 operating system will work on phones and tablets as well as PCs and other devices, and previewed several key features on devices powered by the next generation of the company's main software platform. The software giant is creating a unified operating system that will let developers write universal apps for multiple device sizes, in a bid to jumpstart Microsoft's weak market position in mobile.

At an event at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Microsoft executives touted Windows 10's benefits for mobile. The overarching goal of the platform is to create a unified experience that lets users transition seamlessly between different devices, whether that's a smartphone, tablet, PC or Xbox One gaming console.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is also bringing back many of the familiar elements of Windows 7 while also incorporating the touch-friendly design elements of Windows 8--which critics said went overboard in embracing touch, alienating consumers and businesses and depressing PC sales in the process. At the same time, Microsoft is bringing some features that started on the phone, such as its Cortana digital assistant, to the desktop environment, while also introducing new features for PCs and phones. Microsoft expects to release Windows 10 commercially in the early fall.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Microsoft's worldview involves the mobility of experiences across devices. "In the full of arc of time, when we talk about mobility, it is not about the mobility of any single device. But it is the mobility of the experience across devices," he said. "That is what we're focused on."

Nadella noted that Microsoft's unified developer platform lets developers create apps for a single store that can run across phones, PCs, tablets and even new platforms like Windows Holographic. That means "developers can write applications that can target the widest set of Windows devices," Nadella said.

"Windows 10 must negotiate a formidable wave of negative sentiment following the launch of Windows 8," CCS Insight analyst Geoff Blaber noted. "However, Windows 10 is infinitely more refined, it's a free upgrade, there's no license fee on sub 9-inch devices and Microsoft, Intel and partners are delivering unprecedented levels of hardware innovation at a wide range of price points. The tide could be slowly turning for Windows".

The mobile-specific version of Windows will simply be called Windows 10, in keeping with the unified theme, Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the operating systems group at Microsoft, said during a question and answer session after the event, according to The Verge.

Myerson said that Microsoft has had a good relationship with its OEM partners, including in mobile, and "we all share this same aspiration to have delighted customers who use our products." Nadella said "we absolutely are committed to bringing a great line of hardware." He added: "You can be assured that we will do some fantastic work from the flagship phones to the affordable smartphones, and have a full lineup of phones that will be available with Windows 10."

Windows Phones to date have exclusively used chipsets from Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM), but Microsoft said that the Windows 10 platform "has robust support for Intel processors."

During the event, Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of the operating systems group at Microsoft, showed off several of the Windows 10 features for mobile, including a new Action Center, which collects notifications and syncs to a PC. As The Verge notes, this lets users dismiss a notification across devices. Windows 10 users also will be able to use in-line responses to notifications, including replying to a text message directly via notifications. Apple and Google have announced similar services on their respective mobile and PC platforms.

Microsoft is also reprising the capability to switch between messaging forms, letting users seamlessly switch between replying via SMS, Skype or other messaging types.

Belfiore also noted that popular Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint will be included as standard on phones and small tablets, and also highlighted other universal apps including a new Outlook mail client as well as Calendar and Photos apps. Belfiore also touted the Project Spartan web browser, which will be the new browser for Windows 10. The browser is designed to work across mobile and desktop devices and lets users do things like freeze a web page to take notes--either with a stylus, a user's fingers or by typing--and share those notes with others. Cortana will be integrated into Project Spartan and will pop up on web pages where it can offer assistance, such as making a reservation through OpenTable or providing directions when a user is on a restaurant's website.

For more:
- see this The Verge live blog
- see this The Verge article
- see this CNET live blog

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