Meanwhile, Windows Phone 8 officially launches

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Irrespective of your views on Nokia's chosen direction in smartphones, you might like to note that the next generation of the chosen OS, Windows Phone, has just been unveiled in San Francisco. Rafe and Ewan went along to the London version of the event for some hands-on time and chat, I've included some links and quotes below. Go easy on them, there's still hope that Windows Phone 8 can fill most of the holes in the previous WP7 for hardened Symbian fans....

First of all, David and Rafe bring you the official news here:

Many features of Windows Phone 8 had already been announced, such as the new Start Screen with resizable tiles. However, one new feature of Windows Phone 8 that had not been officially discussed so far was what Microsoft call 'Live Apps'. These were defined as applications that didn’t just possess live tiles, but that also integrated into other applications.

Windows Phone 8 also features a newly designed lock screen, which was also demonstrated as an example of how live apps can integrate with other parts of the operating system. The new lock screen can show notifications (i.e. icons and unread counts), but can also be configured to show other rich content. The point was made that the lock screen is perhaps the most seen part of the user interface. Therefore, users can set the lock screen to show a slideshow of photos or textual updates from live apps. It was claimed that Windows Phone 8 is the first mobile OS that provides a standardised way of communicating between data and notifications in this way.

Following on from the explanation of live tiles and the new lock screen, it was announced that were would be a brand new Facebook application for Windows Phone 8, and that it would support the new lock screen, allowing users to see social updates at a glance of their phone.

It was also announced that the new Skype app for Windows Phone 8 would be heavily integrated into the operating system, allowing the phone to receive calls and instant messages at all time without the application running the background consuming battery life. This is as we heard in the summer – the multitasking model hasn’t been made more PC-like, but special cases where multitasking is most noticeably missed have been catered for.

And then Ewan puts forward an overview of the presentation and Microsoft's ambitions with this version of the smartphone OS:

We've heard all this before - but what's impressive is the energy that Belfiore brought to the presentation. Take the new tweaks to the lock screen that connect the screen to your Facebook photo album, bringing a cheer out of the crowd, but also turning something mundane (pulling information from web services and apps and placing them on your smart screen) into something emotional.

He talked about his family, surprise images about his children, moments from his own life. Belfiore's connection to his phone is a personal one built around emotion, not numbers, graphs and statistics. That makes a lot of difference when pitching the phone to people. Every introduction to a new area of Windows Phone 8 was punctured with personal examples and real-world problems. 

And then there was Belfiore's kids demonstrating Kids Corner - a moment that likely had the entire Microsoft PR team on edge, but showed the human side to Windows Phone and how it can help outside of the geekerati. Promptly followed by Jessica Alba addressing one of the psychological blocks in making the switch to Windows Phone 8... bringing iTunes playlists and media over to Windows Phone using the Mac Connector software in OS X.

Event snap