Windows Phone 8 Launch Set for Oct. 29 in San Francisco

Just three days after the release of the Windows 8 operating system for tablets and PCs, Microsoft is hosting an event in San Francisco to officially launch the new Windows Phone 8 OS for smartphones.

Microsoft has invited reporters to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco Oct. 29 for the official launch of the Windows Phone 8 operating system for smartphones, along with devices from Nokia and other smartphone makers that will run the new OS.

The launch event follows by just three days Microsoft’s launch of the Windows 8 OS for tablets, notebooks and desktop computers. It is one of many new product introductions in what has been a busy year for Microsoft, following the release of Office 2013, Windows Server 2012 for data centers and a revamped Bing search engine.

Handset maker Nokia has bet its future on Windows Phone 8 by partnering with Microsoft to replace its Symbian OS with the Windows product. Nokia introduced the Lumia 820 and Lumia 920 in September that will run Windows Phone 8. Nokia is counting on Windows Phone 8 to rescue the company.

Nokia reported a third quarter loss of $1.27 billion Oct. 18 due to a sharp drop in sales of its current Lumia lineup running Windows Phone 7. It sold only 2.9 million units globally in the third quarter, down from 4 million units in the second quarter. The OS upgrade has had a particularly harsh effect on Nokia because Microsoft decided that Windows Phone 7 devices cannot be upgraded to Windows Phone 8, making those WP7 devices even less attractive to consumers now.

At its Windows Phone Summit in June, Microsoft said that Windows Phone 8 is fundamentally different because it was designed to run on a multi-core processor instead of the single-core processor on WP7 devices. The best that owners of those older devices can do is get an upgrade to Windows Phone 7.8 from the current version 7.5.

HTC and Samsung have also unveiled coming new models supporting WP8.

But Nokia’s future is murky even with WP8 on the horizon, said Michael Walkley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity.

“We believe Nokia’s visibility remains limited for its business units and modeling 2013 is challenging,” Walkley stated in a research note to investors, citing “increased low-end smartphone competition [and] the uncertainty of whether Windows can become a viable third ecosystem with the Windows 8 launch.”

That’s a valid point, given that the two biggest smartphone OS vendors are Google Android, with a 68 percent market share, and Apple iOS, with a 16.9 percent share, according to IDC numbers for the second quarter of 2012.

Windows Phone ranked fifth with a 3.5 percent share, trailing the retired Symbian at 4.4 percent. Even the beleaguered Research in Motion (RIM) did better, as sales of its BlackBerry smartphones ranked third with a 4.8 percent share. RIM’s Hail Mary operating system upgrade to BlackBerry 10—as critical to its survival as WP8 is to Nokia’s—has been delayed until early next year.