Microsoft to 'align' Windows Phone, future Windows OSes

Microsoft aims to take steps to ease code development across tablets, PCs and smartphones

Microsoft, which on Monday held an event in New York to mark the U.S. launch of smartphones running its latest Windows Phone 7.5 OS, said it is taking steps to "align" the smartphone OS with its future tablet and PC OSes.

The company wants to bring similar user experiences across Microsoft-based phones, PCs and tablets to make usage consistent and easier, said Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Windows Phone Program Management, during a press event.

Proactive steps are also being taken that make it easier for developers to write applications for all devices, but Belfiore did not say if the code-base of Windows Phone and other Windows OSes for diverse devices was being unified.

"The Windows team has made announcements about the platform for Windows 8. It's based on XAML and C-Sharp, which is the same language run-time as we have on the phone. Over time you'll see these things be aligned. We'll have a tool story that's great for developers, but we have not yet made any announcements about future versions of Windows Phone," Belfiore said.

Microsoft has gone to great lengths to spread awareness of the Windows Phone OS, which is currently struggling in a competitive marketplace that includes Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The company has built a six-floor replica of a smartphone with Windows Phone 7.5 in New York's Herald Square. Microsoft also on Monday announced the availability of new smartphones from HTC and Samsung running on the OS.

Offering a similar user interface across different devices is a big step for Microsoft as the company tries to address devices with different screen sizes, Belfiore said. The company's upcoming Windows 8 OS, which will run on tablets and PCs, will have a new Metro-style user interface, which is much like the interface on Windows Phone 7.5.

The Metro interface will bring a radically different look to Windows 8, with live tiles and touch-based gestures replacing icons and mouse clicks, respectively. The idea is to make accessing programs and content easier than previous versions of Windows, which required going through nested menus and folders.

The Windows 8 OS has a different overall code base than Windows Phone. However, in a sense, the desktop Windows and Windows Phone OSes also share some similarities, Belfiore said.

The Internet Explorer 9 browser that ships as part of Windows Phone 7.5 has the same HTML rendering and JavaScript code as Internet Explorer 9 for the desktop OS. Also, the XNA framework run-time that runs games applications has been brought to the PC, the phone and the Xbox.

"If you're a developer and write an XNA app you can run it across" the devices, Belfiore said.

The other unifying factor for tablets, phones, PCs and gaming consoles are Web-based cloud services, Belfiore said. Microsoft is building its own cloud offerings through services such as Windows Live, but also trying to integrate social networking tools that people most care about, such as Facebook and Twitter.

"What we're trying to do is use the cloud as a mechanism to aggregate all the things that you would care about on the back-end and get them to those screens in a right, meaningful, well-designed way."

The company announced smartphones from HTC and Samsung running on Windows Phone 7.5. The smartphones available from AT&T include the US$199.99 Samsung Focus S, which has a 4.3-inch screen; the $49.99 Samsung Focus Flash, which has a 3.7-inch screen; and the HTC Titan, which has a 4.7-inch screen. HTC's Radar 4G has a 3.8-inch screen and is available on T-Mobile's network for $99.99.

Company officials declined to comment on when Nokia's Lumia smartphones, which also run Windows Phone, will be available in the U.S.

The Windows Phone 7.5 software will be provided as a free software upgrade to existing Windows Phone customers.

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