Microsoft just took the wraps off Windows Phone 8 today during the Windows Phone Summit in San Fransisco. As you probably be know by now current Windows Phone 7.X handset won’t be upgradable to WP8 but will instead receive Windows Phone 7.8 and you will understand why in a shot while after getting a small glimpse at what Apollo will bring to the table later this fall.
To put it simply; Windows Phone 8 is what Windows Phone 7 should have been from the get go: a fully feature modern OS without any silly restriction. This is now the case thanks to the new shared core with it’ desktop/tablet big brother Windows 8. The fact that WP8 will run on the same NT Kernel Windows 8 isn’t really a surprise if you have been following me given that I had uncovered some subtle hints quite a while ago and even shared my concern that if this was going to be the case then current WP7 handsets probably won’t have the HW guts to run the future OS.
So what is Windows Phone 8 all about besides the Windows NT Kernel? Well this right here is what is going to change everything. Starting this fall Windows Phone 8 handset will finally be powered by Qualcomm Multi-Core Socs, support 3 screen resolutions (WVGA: 800×480, WXGA: 1280×768 and 720p) and native support for Micro-SD cards which will allow users to install apps , potos, muisc etc :
Windows Phone 8 will also include Internet Explorer 10 just like Windows 8 and have exactly the same feature set (smartscreen, improved HTML5 support):
Microsoft is also confident that Windows Phone 8 and IE10 is the fastest mobile browsing platform for smartphone as seen in the supplied sunspider benchmark below which shows the current WP8 build being faster the iOS 6 Beta, the Samsung Glaxy SII and HTC One S:
The third major addition to the platform is native code access to third party developers which will allow super fast cross platform development like iOS/Android ports and more importantly simultaneous development of Windows Phone 8 an Windows 8 applications.
The most obvious application will be game development now that developers will be able to fully leverage the GPU’s features set through DirectX and Direct 3D thus allowing the use of middleware suites and game engines like Havok, Unreal Engine:
As previously rumored NFC support is directly built into the OS:
This NFC support will play a big part into the new fully integrated Wallet system which was demoed in-depth by Joe Belfiore on Stage. This Wallet will be made possible by the native support of the new RCS-e standard which will allow mobile payments and other wallet related transaction to be done via the carrier’s sim card (and thus transferable to other RCS-e compatible device unlike other Wallet service like Android which rely on the handset itself and is less secure).
The next major announcement which should be a surprise to anybody is that Nokia Maps will become the default mapping service in Windows Phone 8 (and most probably Windows 8 later on). This will include all of NavTeq service, offline maps support, and turn-by-turn navigation. Don’t confuse this with Nokia Drive which will still be exclusive to Nokia Windows Phone handsets.
Windows Phone 8 will also finally be ready for IT Businesses unlike WP7 which still lacks many features and services that prevent companies from deploying Windows Phone handsets and instead go the iOS , BB or Android route. WP8 will support most of the security and IT features found in windows 8 like secure boot, bitlocker encryption, fleet management, application deployment directly from the company and bypassing the consumer Marketplace etc..:
Last but not least; the Start screen has changed and now feature realizable tiles and no longer has a gap on the right (the application pane also seems to be gone now. This new UI will also be part of Windows Phone 7.8.
In addition to everything mentioned above Windows Phone 8 will also finally support true multi-tasking which means that application can now really running in the background to allow scenarios like a phone call interrupts a voice guided navigation when being picked up and then having the navigation resume when the call is finished.
This will also come in handy with the full native built-in VOIP support (yes Skype is integrated into WP8) which will also be accessible to other 3rd party VOIP services. WP6 will also feature in-app payments which will also be fully integrated into the Wallet feature of the OS. Windows Phone 8 will launch in 50 languages and have applications available for purchase and download more than 150 countries (more the Apple iOS). All of the 100,000 + Windows Phone 7.X applications will be compatible with Windows Phone 8 thanks to Microsoft who will recompile each one of them without the need for developer to do anything. Microsoft is also introducing a new Speech API accessible by 3rd party application that will allow users to control their handset by voice ala Siri (but somewhat more advanced in some cases.
There’s only one word to recap today’s event: Finally. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft is finally in a position to offer a product that can go head to head against the competition and even surpass it now that it essentially has one OS/Kernel to rule them all. Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 can’t be dissociated from each other especially now that it will be a breeze for developers to develop applications for the PC, Tablet and Phone without much trouble at all. Microsoft finally has a real story to sell, one that no other tech company in the world has. The only downside of this news is obviously the lack of upgrade path to WP8 for existing WP7/X handsets. It’s perfectly understandable that most early Windows Phone adopters may feel like suckers now that their recently acquire device won’t receive the latest and greatest this fall though. Microsoft is now promising that all Windows Phone 8 handsets will be supported with updates for at least 18 months after their initial launch and that enthusiast users will be able to register to a special beta test program which will allow them to have early access to updates before broad consumer push. It should also be noted that all updates will now be done over the air via Wifi and will no longer require the phone to be plugged into a PC (or tablet..). Windows Phone is here to stay folks.
So what are you thoughts about today’s event?
Check out the full event below: