Ballmer pitches Windows Phone 8 live tiles in video ad

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer touts the personalization features of Windows Phone 8 in a new 46-second video ad.

The ad, now accessible on YouTube, was first shown at the formal launch of Windows Phone 8 on Monday, where Ballmer appeared onstage with actress Jessica Alba. He pointed out how different his Windows Phone from Alba’s largely due to how the live tiles in the interface can be set up and used.

Ballmer shares elements of his own personal life in the ad—having lunch with his sons and generally heeding advice from his wife, Connie. He also talks of needing better advice on how to play golf, calls a suggestion by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to sell a purple-colored WindowsPhone as “useful advice.”

The ad is more than a Ballmer promotion, however. It’s one of those rare ads that actually describes a technology; in this case the live tiles at the heart of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

The live tiles, arranged as little squares on the home screen of the phone, can be adjusted in size, color and location.

The tiles are kept current in real-time so that a Skype tile with a “2” after the signature “S” can be used to show two new requests to video chat when the tile is touched. In another tile, an envelope icon representing emails followed by a “99” indicates that 99 unread emails are waiting.

While analysts praised the tile concept when it was first launched in 2010, the Windows Phone OS has since garnered less than 5 percent of the worldwide smartphone market.

The Ballmer ad is an indication of how Microsoft needs to further explain its Windows Phone 8 OS to gain traction among consumers, some analysts said.

For instance, Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg tweeted: “Microsoft *must* run this ad” and added a smiley face that seemed to indicate he was only kidding.

Even so, the ad is worth checking out, especially for those not familiar with the look and feel of the Windows Phone 8 live tiles.

Of note: Ballmer uses a Windows Phone 8X by HTC in red as his personal device. The smartphone will be sold by AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile in November.

All three will also carry different versions of the Nokia Lumia smartphone running Windows Phone 8.

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