Microsoft's Windows 8 Could Include Calling Ability: Reports

Microsoft's Windows 8 could feature the ability to place calls, according to a set of blog postings. That raises some interesting questions.

Microsoft's Windows 8 could offer some baked-in calling capability.

The blog istartedsomething managed to take some interesting screenshots of a Windows 8 phone feature during Microsoft's BUILD conference (which ran from Sept. 13-16). The next-generation operating system will reportedly arrive sometime in 2012.

Those screenshots included a "Missed Calls" tile on Windows 8's user interface, as well as the option to "call mobile" for an individual contact in the "People" app. The blog WinRumors also offered some video footage of the latter.

That raises some fascinating questions. Does Microsoft mean for some variant of Windows 8 to succeed Windows Phone? How would a Windows 8 phone differ from Windows 8 on larger devices like tablets and PCs? As istartedsomething suggested, Microsoft's recent Skype acquisition could also factor into this, somehow.

Microsoft has revealed quite a bit about Windows 8, but less about the ecosystem it plans to build around the next-generation operating system. It will run on both tablets and traditional PCs, courtesy of a touch-centric interface (centered on colorful tiles) paired with a traditional desktop, with easy switching between the two depending on the situation. The tablet-ready interface embraces the "Metro" aesthetic pioneered by Microsoft's Zune and Windows Phone software, drawing away from the "Aero" design used in Windows Vista and Windows 7. When it flips to desktop mode, Windows 8 offers a "look" that, at least at this early stage, seems chunkier and more blockish than Aero.

To accompany that dual-interface, Microsoft is planning two versions of Internet Explorer 10: a "Metro" app tailored for tablets, and a more traditional desktop app. The Metro-style browser will be "plug-in free," a potentially worrisome development for Adobe and its Flash Player, which continues to power much of the Web's rich content.

During his Sept. 13 BUILD keynote, Windows and Windows Live division president Steven Sinofsky insisted that technology had evolved enough in the three years since Windows 7's release to justify the creation of a whole new operating system. He argued that the rise of mobility, particularly in the consumer space, made it essential to build a platform capable of running on tablets.

Certainly Windows has managed to succeed better within its own particular vertical than Windows Phone, which is struggling for adoption.

"It was under a year ago that we launched the first Windows Phone," Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told the assembled media and analysts. "We haven't sold quite as many probably as I would have hoped we would have sold in the first year."

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