Windows 8 phones out to stand apart from rivals

Windows 8 phones out to stand apart from rivals

The global rollout of Windows 8 phones set to begin in Europe this weekend comes as the final piece in a Microsoft operating system transformation aimed at harmonizing the technology titan's software and hardware for mobile lifestyles.

"It has been for us an exciting and energizing few days," Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said while unveiling slick new Windows 8 smartphones at a media event in San Francisco.

"Windows PCs (personal computers) really are the best PCs ever and today we are bringing phones into the Windows family with Windows 8."

Microsoft on Friday launched its latest generation Windows operating system, hit the market with Surface tablet computers and opened scores of temporary "pop-up" stores that have drawn crowds interested in Windows 8 devices.

"The lines we've seen at Microsoft stores have been heartening," Ballmer said.

Windows Phone 8 is the final component in Microsoft's new equation and shares a user interfaced based on "tiles" that can be personalized with people's pictures, applications, games, music and more.

Microsoft corporate vice president Joe Belfiore said that Microsoft was out to "re-invent" a smartphone experience that has for years basically consisted of a locked screen that opens to rows of icons.

"We decided not use that tired old metaphor and came up with our own way that puts people at the center of the experience," Belfiore said with a slight jab at iPhone.