Windows Phone garners raves for Microsoft design

Redmond , Wash. — gorgeous,” raves The Huffington Post.

“Best-looking smartphone operating system in the industry,” gushes Slate.

“Far superior to most if not all the Android smartphones,” says TechCrunch.

Sounds like the usual adulation for a gadget from Apple. In fact, they’re actually accolades for a new product from Microsoft.

Exactly. Long ridiculed as the tech industry dullard, Microsoft actually has a hit, at least with the technorati. it is the cell phone software called Windows Phone – and they need it to be a blockbuster here at Microsoft Central.

Yes, Windows and Office products are ubiquitous and highly profitable. But they’re about as inspirational as a stapler. while the likes of Apple have captured our imaginations with nifty products like the iPhone, Microsoft has produced a long list of flops, from smart wristwatches to the Zune music player to the Kin phones.

Steve Jobs used to deride Microsoft for a lack of originality. In his opinion, the company didn’t bring “much culture” to its products. with Windows Phone, though, Microsoft is finally getting some buzz.

“I am a devoted Apple fan – I was in line for the iPhone,” said Axel Roesler, assistant professor for interaction design at the University of Washington in Seattle, but Windows Phone “strikes me as quite different and an advance.”

Windows Phone, which began appearing in devices last fall, certainly stands out visually. it has bold, on-screen typography and a mosaic of animated tiles on the home screen – a stark departure from the neat grid of icons made popular by the iPhone. while most phones force users to open stand-alone apps to get into social networks, Facebook and Twitter are wired into Windows Phone. The tiles spring to life as friends or family post fresh pictures, text messages and status updates.

Even so, relatively few consumers have been tempted, and sales have been lackluster. a big problem is that, initially, the handsets running Microsoft’s software, made by companies like HTC and Samsung, were unexceptional. Even more important, wireless carriers, the gatekeepers for nearly all mobile phones, have not been aggressively selling Windows Phones in their stores. most promote the iPhone and devices running Google’s Android operating system.

And so Microsoft has struck a partnership with Nokia, and executives at both companies have high hopes that their handsets will catch on with consumers.

On Monday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia introduced a sleek metallic Windows Phone called the Lumia 900 that will be sold by AT&T in the U.S.. unlike other handset makers creating devices with Microsoft’s software, Nokia is not also developing Android phones.

“We are doing our best work for Windows Phone,” said Stephen Elop, the chief executive of Nokia and a former Microsoft executive.

While the customers’ verdict is still unknown, the group that developed Windows Phone has already profoundly affected Microsoft itself, influencing work on other consumer products. The next major version of software for PCs, Windows 8, will look a lot like Windows Phone, which Microsoft hopes will help it work better on tablet devices. a Windows Phone-like makeover was also part of the new software update for Xbox, which along with Kinect is one of Microsoft’s few consumer hits.

Bill Flora, one of the designers of Windows Phone, said the care that Microsoft took in designing its products had changed vastly since he joined the company out of art school in the early 1990s.

“Now, instead of 80 percent of its efforts being unenlightened, just 20 percent are unenlightened,” said Flora, who recently left Microsoft to form his own design firm in Seattle.

The tale of how Microsoft created Windows Phone starts with the introduction of the iPhone, in 2007. to Joe Belfiore, now 43, an engineer who oversees software design for Windows Phone, that was the spark.

Windows Phone garners raves for Microsoft design

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