The Microsoft mobile platform took the biggest step forward of all the major players this year. While Android focused on optimizing performance and voice assistants, and iOS basically stagnated (shooting itself in the foot with Maps), Windows Phone got some cool new features and, more importantly, can now finally make the most of advanced hardware.
Windows Phone 8 is faster, smoother and more powerful than its predecessor. It retains the same familiar - and attractive - design, but something as simple as resizable live tiles is a real boost to usability. The Kid's corner is another nice little thing to have and the Mass storage mode really changes the way you use your smartphone.
Zune no longer has a death grip on file transfers and the added microSD slot support means that you'll be able to get smartphones with plenty of storage on the cheap, which might convert a few extra users as well.
What's worth pointing out here though, is that Windows Phone was lagging so far behind its main rivals that the update doesn't necessarily mean it's come frighteningly close, let alone on top.
Au contraire - Windows Phone 8 is only now able to start matching up against iOS, and it's still got a lot of ground to cover to reach Android levels of functionality and customization options. So it seems that the Nokia Lumias, the Samsung Ativs and the HTC WPs will first try and steal market share from iOS, before looking at the Google-powered army (though some might be tempted to give up some functionality for the cool looks).
Thing is though, the Apple customers are among the most loyal around, so luring them away from the favorite brand is always going to be a hard task.
However it seems that Microsoft and its allies may as well be up to it. Early glimpses of the new crop of Windows Phone 8 flagships have been more than encouraging. A platform that's managed to shed the self-inflicted limitations and is giving developers a good reason to get their hands busy must be on the right track.
The other piece of good news for the WP alliance is the fact that the smartphone market is still not a zero-sum game. There are still plenty of featurephone users to be converted out there and Windows Phone 8 seems to put team Microsoft in a very decent position to get a big slice of the pie.
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