Struggling manufacturer HTC rolled out two new devices Wednesday running Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system, helping advance the platform beyond Microsoft's close, high-stakes partnership with Nokia.
HTC and Microsoft called the devices the "first signature Windows phones."
HTC's Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S each feature the Windows Live Tiles customizable home screen as well as Beats Audio and Gorilla Glass. The 8X's HD-resolution super LCD 2 screen is 4.3 inches, while the 8S is 4 inches. They ship in November and will be available in the U.S. through AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. No price was announced for either device, however.
"We've been inspired by Windows Phone 8 to create new smartphones that give the platform the iconic design and personality it deserves," said Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, in a statement.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said the collaboration with the Taiwanese handset maker was "a big milestone" for both companies, adding, "I'm thrilled to take our longstanding partnership to the next level."
The newcomers arrive during a busy month of hardware releases, including last week's iPhone 5 release from Apple and offerings from Samsung, Motorola and Nokia.
"In terms of hardware experiences the devices from Nokia and HTC are on par and in some cases exceed the Android and iPhone rivals, and will compete well compared to the same period last year," said analyst Neil Shah of Strategy Analytics.
In terms of the software user experience, however, the Windows Phone 8 ecosystem has yet to be fully unveiled in order to cement its place as a credible "third ecosystem" behind the market-leading kings, Shah told us.
Duopoly Rules -- For Now
"In the short-term it's going to be dominated by the Android-iOS duopoly, but [the] upcoming abundant Windows Phone 8 feature sets, growing app ecosystem and multi-device connected experience should satisfy most of the existing and prospective smartphone users to switch from rival camps in mid- to long-term," Shah said.
HTC's Windows Phone 8X has a Qualcomm S4 1.5 gigahertz, dual-core processor with one gigabyte of RAM, weighs 130 grams, ships with 16 GB of memory (expandable with microSD) and has a 720-pixel HD resolution display. The 8-megapixel rear camera, and 2.1-megapixel front-facing camera each have a dedicated HTC ImageChip, and the rear camera features f2.0 aperture and a 28mm lens
with 1080p video recording.
The Windows Phone 8S is slightly lighter at 113 grams, with a slower processor, too, at 1 gigahertz, also dual core. It packs 512 megabytes of RAM and only a single, 5-megapixel camera, with f2.8 aperture and a 35mm lens and 720p video recording. Internal storage is the same at 16 GB. Expect it to be somewhat cheaper than the 8X.
Gartner estimated HTC's share of the mobile-device market at just 2.2 percent in the second quarter of this year.