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Microsoft launches Windows Phone 8
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said 'people all over the world are about to fall in love with Windows Phones' (AP)
Microsoft has launched a new version of its Windows Phone software with broad support from smartphone makers, mobile phone firms and app developers.
The software giant is trying to position new Windows gadgets as strong alternatives to Apple and Android devices.
The company also promised to address one of the chief shortcomings with Windows Phone: the dearth of third-party applications relative to offerings for Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android system.
Windows Phone 8 is the successor to Windows Phone 7, which launched two years ago but has had little traction in the market.
The new software will run on more powerful phones, with flagship models coming from Nokia, Samsung and HTC, starting this weekend overseas and later in November in the US
"People all over the world are about to fall in love with Windows Phones," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said at the Windows Phone 8 launch event in San Francisco.
Microsoft said it will also catch up in offering third-party apps. There are 120,000 applications available for Windows Phone, but some apps that are popular on other systems are notably missing from Windows Phone because it can be hard to get developers interested in writing programmes for a small number of smartphones.
Microsoft is patching some of those holes soon: Microsoft vice president Joe Belfiore said internet radio service Pandora is coming to Windows Phone 8, along with games such as "Where's My Water?" Soon, he said, 46 of the 50 most popular smartphone apps will be available.
The company is also releasing an app for Skype, the internet calling service it owns. The Skype app available for Windows Phone 7 was an unfinished, or "beta", version. The new Skype app will run in the background, listening for incoming calls without placing any drain on the battery, Mr Belfiore said.
Microsoft scored a big endorsement from Verizon Wireless, the largest mobile phone operator in the US. It will carry three Windows Phones this holiday season, including its first Nokia phone in many years.