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Microsoft's Second Big Announcement This Week

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/06/21/microsofts-second-big-announcement-this-week.aspx

Evan Niu
June 21, 2012

What a week of mobility it's been for Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) . On Monday, the software giant took the wraps off of its big plunge into tablet hardware with Microsoft Surface, which runs on the next major version of its flagship operating system, Windows 8.

Then yesterday, the company detailed the next version of its smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 8, at its Windows Phone Summit event. Within a matter of days, Microsoft has now outlined its vision of the next year or so in terms of its big hardware and software initiatives in its most important markets.

A recurring theme
An important trend on the operating system front has been a continued convergence of features and capabilities between desktop, tablet, and smartphones. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) began bringing features from iOS into its Mac OS X in 2011 with Lion and is set to keep that theme alive with Mountain Lion next month.

Mr. Softy unveiled Windows 8 in September of last year and it was obvious that it was taking many design and interface cues from the metro style it pioneered in Windows Phone 7. The company is going deeper this time with its convergence, as the core technologies of Windows Phone 8 are based on Windows 8, and the two operating systems will share a lot of the same code base, including its underlying kernel.

The most obvious benefit of doing this is that it makes it easier for developers to make apps across all devices.

What's new?
As far as new features go, Microsoft is adding a swath of new features, including NFC, multi-core processor support, a new start screen interface, Skype and VoIP integration, and a new digital wallet feature, among others.

Windows Phone 8 start screens. Source: Microsoft.

The start screen is now more customizable and flexible, allowing better utilization of screen real estate, which is particularly useful as smartphone screen sizes are trending larger nowadays. Developers will have more access to how the characteristic live tiles behave.

The wallet feature is one-upping both Google (Nasdaq: GOOG