Unlike a few other leading gadgets, Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones might be hitting Indian shores a lot faster following their introduction in its primary Western markets. Karthik Subramanian was among the few journalists to get a look at the upcoming phones at a Microsoft event in New Delhi just a day after their official launch in the U.S. A report…

Microsoft’s big roll-out plan for its Windows 8 mobile devices is in motion. Though Hurricane Sandy might have eclipsed a little bit of this big launch earlier this week in the U.S., the tech giant seems to be pulling out all stops to get noticed.

On October 30, just a day after the international launch, Microsoft India put out a preview of the upcoming Windows 8 phones at a special event in New Delhi before a gathering of technology journalists and bloggers in the country. The devices previewed included the Nokia Lumia, Samsung Ativ S and HTC’s Windows 8 phones running the latest iteration of the Windows operating system for mobile devices.

Vineet Durani, director, Windows Phone Business Group, said most of the handsets on display — Nokia Lumia 820 and 920, Samsung Ativ S and HTC’s WP8S and WP8X — should be reaching the retail market within the next few weeks.

The Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 will probably reach Indian shores the fastest. All the phones feature a dual-core processor and have the latest technology such as Near Field Communications (NFC) in-built, and it is safe to guess that most high-end

Windows 8 phones would cost upwards of Rs. 30,000. (Microsoft would not speak of the exact numbers and left that to its hardware partners to say when the phones will be officially launched in India.)

In some ways, the Microsoft event showed that India figures prominently on its roadmap and unlike with other gadgets, one need not wait or ask relatives or friends to purchase them while flying into the country from the U.S.

Phone highlights

The Windows 8 phone is not just a brand new phone from Microsoft. For the uninitiated, it is also a brand new mobile technology and experience. Barring those who have tried the Mango phones (Windows Mobile OS 7.5 through 7.8), the phone will be a bit of a surprise in terms of its user interface and experience.

A word of caution: those who are migrating from other platforms, be it Android, iOS or Blackberry, or even those making the shift from ‘feature phones’ to ‘smart phones’, may find that the Windows 8 platform requires some getting used to.

In fact, the same applies to the desktop experience too. The Windows 8 on desktops and laptops is worlds apart from what people have got used to in terms of user interface ever since the original Windows 95. While subsequent popular upgrades, be it Windows XP or even Windows 7, bore a basic design resemblance to Windows 95, the Windows 8 is a complete reboot for the company in terms of computing environment and experience.

Room concept

During his brief interaction with journalists, Vineet highlighted some experiences unique to the Windows 8 phones. Though there are plenty of new features, there were a few that stood out. Windows 8 phone introduces the ‘Room’ concept that allows the phone user to privately share content like photos or maps within a closed loop of people. Such ‘Rooms’ can be used for both creating casual conversations (say, within a weekend bikers’ group) and office conversations, (say, when a team of collaborators shares information about an office project).

Another interesting innovation seems to be the creation of a ‘Kids Corner’ where the user can select the apps he wants his child to use while playing with the phone. Microsoft feels that most parents would like to hand over their smartphones to their children to play with but are constantly worried about what content they access. With this feature, they can hand over the phones without worries.

Windows 8 phone also features deeper levels of personalisation. “No two people are the same,” said Vineet. “So why should their phones look the same, especially the the home page?” With its Live Tiles interface, users can pick and customise the look of their phone.

While Windows 8 phone seems advanced over the previous generation phone and seems set to push Microsoft into the mobile devices game big time, the question is how fast the developers would adapt to the environment and use the device to publish innovative apps. Microsoft claims it already has over 1,25,000 apps for the Windows 8 mobile.

One of the biggest rallying points for the Windows 8 mobile is its deep integration with Microsoft Office suite. The Office Hub and the One Note are powerful tools that make the Windows 8 phone worth checking out once it is out. While the smartphone promises to combine fun and work, it remains to be seen how it will work in a connected environment with other Internet enabled devices.