Buried under the news of Hurricane Sandy and Apple's executive reshuffle, you might not have realised that Microsoft officially launched its biggest play in smartphones yesterday. Many models and makes are coming soon, with first releases in Europe, followed by the States. 

Here Comes Microsoft...

Since the move to all-touchscreen smartphones around 2007, Microsoft has fallen down the userbase charts and lagged the market with its recovery efforts. Windows Phone 8 is the pivot point for the company, linked in with the Windows 8 launch, sale of Surface tablets, Xbox services and other elements. 

For the first time, Microsoft has a single underlying framework across the three sizes of screen; desktop, tablet and smartphone, a marketplace that can act as the launchpad for a huge ecosystem, and its own services in the form of Skydrive, Mail, Skype and others to bring to the party. 

And, with Steve Ballmer, beating the drum, Microsoft is putting up a massive marketing effort to sell all these products. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Ballmer admitted to not advertising previous Windows Phones much, but the effort is being ramped up now. 

Welcome Windows Phone 8

Microsoft's lead partner in the WP8 mission in Nokia, and the Finnish company is shipping new Lumia 900 units to Europe this week, with America to follow shortly. Smartphone giant Samsung is also on board along with the likes of HTC, bringing high-end and mid-level devices to create a decent range. 

Verizon will carry the Windows Phone 8X by HTC for $199.99 on a two-year contract with the Nokia Lumia 822 available for $99.99 with a two-year contract. AT&T will have those phones and the Lumia 920 "soon". 


Learning Opportunities

With all these pieces in place, Microsoft has to be very confident of start back up the market share ladder. A lot of that comes down to services and Microsoft showed off Rooms (private social networks) and Kid's Corner, a feature that will make your phone safe for the children to use. 

These spots of differentiation plus 125,000 apps in the Phone Marketplace, including 46 out of the top 50 you'll find in other app stores, should calm a lot of the fears over not having much to do. Windows Phone 8 specific apps shouldn't be too long in picking up. 

All this focus has largely been on the consumer, expect a business slant in future events, as Microsoft touts its powerful Office, SharePoint and Active Directory ecosystem to enterprise users. Google cancelled its launch event yesterday, but still put up blog posts announcing its new phones and other hardware.