The Kid's Corner aspect of Windows Phone 8 -- which offers a cordoned-off, but fully-customizable, section of the phone for children to mess around with -- has already made the rounds through various news outlets. But Belfiore gave the new addition a proper introduction, calling his three children out onto the stage to demonstrate the feature's ability to protect one's phone from the mischievous fingers of the young ones.
Jessica Alba was also called out onto the stage at one point and, aside from offering an opportunity for a celebrity plug, she gave the audience an idea of what can happen when a child gets their hands on a phone that doesn't have Kid's Corner engaged: she showed off a screenshot of her gibberish-filled Twitter feed, a result of her daughter getting her hands on her mother's iPhone.
Parents can choose which apps, games, or other content to add to the Kid's Corner (and children are free to customize it with their own names and color schemes), and activate it before letting their children handle their phone, protecting sensitive content like work email accounts -- or, in the case of Miss Alba, social media outlets -- from being tampered with.
Other convenience factors behind Windows Phone 8 were discussed, including the ability to transfer one's entire iTunes music library to the new Xbox Music service (simply use the Mac Connector app) and Microsoft's cloud storage/syncing service, Skydrive.
Again, Skydrive was available on Windows Phone 7, but Microsoft seemed keen on touting the service in light of its new products and services, including Surface and Xbox Music, pointing out that it's not just accessible from Windows Phone 8 devices, but also PCs, Xboxes, and Surface tablets. And aside from being able to store photos or Office documents, users can also use it to sync music from the Xbox Music service, so that they can not only access and listen to their music library from any device, but library management (like adding or rearranging playlists) is updated across all of their devices, too. And with most of the content -- be it photos, documents, or even OneNote entries -- users could set it to automatically upload to SkyDrive when they're finished editing, where the file is saved among the free 7 GB of storage that the service offers.
Belfiore also went over the new Rooms feature on Windows Phone 8, which is reminiscent of Window Phone 7's Groups, but with far more functionality. By simply inviting people from their contacts, users can create a Room, which serves as a sort of central hub for communicating and sharing that all of the Room's members can access. Right out of the box, for example, all Windows Phone 8 devices include a Family Room, but others can be created for close friends and the like.
Within the Rooms, users can share notes (e.g. a grocery list that any Room member can view, update, or check off if they stop by the store on the way home), photos, calendar events, and other content for all of the other members to see.
Perhaps the most convenient aspect of Rooms, however, is that even non-Windows Phone users can be invited to them, though what they experience is a truncated version of the feature. Belfiore didn't elaborate on which features non-Windows Phone users will have access to and which ones they won't, but he did show an example in which an iPhone user's calendar was automatically updated with a new entry when another Room member posted an event for that specific date and time.
After Belfiore was finished touting the software, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer came on stage to prove that Windows Phone will also have the hardware to back it up.
Ballmer went down the line, first introducing the Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia, including the Lumia 920 and Lumia 820, before moving onto the Samsung ATIV S, and finally the Windows Phone 8X and 8S from HTC. Each of the models Ballmer mentioned, he said, would be available this coming weekend in the U.K. and will continue to roll out through November to the rest of the world.
It was when Ballmer went into the carrier information that he dropped one of the few surprises on the day. When discussing the Windows Phone 8 offerings from Verizon, he mentioned the HTC Windows Phone 8X, the Nokia Lumia 822 (the Lumia 820 variant), and finally, the never-before-mentioned Samsung ATIV Odyssey.
The ATIV Odyssey, said Ballmer, will be a Verizon Wireless exclusive and will go on sale in December, but for now, no images or specs are being offered. The 8X and Lumia 822, meanwhile, will be in stores by Thanksgiving.
As for the other carriers, T-Mobile will be offering its Lumia 820 variant, the Lumia 810, and the 8X starting November 14, while AT&T will start selling the Lumia 920, Lumia 820, and 8X "in November." Ballmer said specific release date and pricing info would be coming soon.
"Our hardware partners are all in," said Ballmer of Windows Phone 8 before closing the show. "Our carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile are all in. Our developers are all in.
"And obviously, Microsoft is all in."
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