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Microsoft comes out of 'dullard' tag with new Windows Phone

Sounds like the usual adulation for a gadget from Apple? Wrong, they're actually accolades for a new product from Microsoft.

gadgets Updated: Jan 08, 2012 21:44 IST

"Gorgeous," raves The Huffington Post.

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

Sounds like the usual adulation for a gadget from Apple? Wrong, they're actually accolades for a new product from Microsoft.

Microsoft?

Exactly. Ridiculed as the tech industry dullard, Microsoft now seems to have a hit in the form of it's new cellphone software Windows Phone.

Windows and Office products are highly profitable. But they're about as inspirational as a stapler. While the likes of Apple have captured our imaginations with products such as the iPhone, Microsoft has produced a long list of flops, from smart wristwatches to the Zune music player to the Kin phones. With Windows Phone, though, Microsoft is finally getting some buzz.

"I am a devoted Apple fan," said Axel Roesler, assistant professor for interaction design at the University of Washington, but Windows Phone "strikes me as different."

Windows Phone has bold, on-screen typography and animated tiles on the home screen. Facebook and Twitter are wired into the phone. The tiles spring to life as friends or family post pictures, text messages and status updates.

Even so, 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 such as HTC and Samsung, were unexceptional. Even wireless carriers have not been aggressively selling Windows phones in their stores. Most promote the iPhone and devices running Android operating system.

And so Microsoft has struck a partnership with Nokia. On Monday at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia plans to introduce a sleek metallic Windows Phone called the Lumia 900 that will be sold by AT&T in the US.

"We are doing our best for Windows Phone," said Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO 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 PC's, 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% of its efforts being unenlightened, just 20% are unenlightened," said Flora, who recently left Microsoft to form his own design firm in Seattle.

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