Microsoft has announced details on Windows Phone 8 at the Windows Phone Developer Summit, which arrives this fall with development tools coming over the summer. The new platform is to support more than just dual-core processors, it will support as many as 64 cores if such devices come to exist over the span of the platform's life. The past 800x480 display barrier is broken, now offering 1280 x 720 or 1280 x 768. There are also new abilities such as NFC for tags and payments and the support for SD cards.
The ability to add SD cards has been missing until now, though the Windows Phone 7 Operating system did support SD storage, but not the removal of microSD cards while powered on.
Shared Core to Native Coding
Microsoft has announced that Windows Phone 8 will be released this fall and has a shared core with Windows 8, as expected. Microsoft has stated that apps developed for 7.5 will not require adjustments to fit to the new resolutions now available on Windows Phone 8.
Microsoft is supporting native code with Windows Phone 8. In particular, they are stressing the gaming experiences that will be possible using native code (C++) and Direct3D. Full gaming engines will come to WP8 and enable better physics capabilities for game developers. In particular Microsoft showed off the Havok engine as one example. The demo seemed to show similar characteristics that are visible on the desktop version as well.
Microsoft has also added API's to WP8 that include SQLite. Developers will be able to use Microsoft Visual Studio 2012 tools to do development between platforms.
Internet Explorer 10 will come baked into the OS and its engine will mirror that of the desktop version. Microsoft is allowing native code development for the platform with DirectX support.
Microsoft has emphasized that apps can be launched using Speech. There are voice prompts in application settings that are exposed for developers as well.
The default maps application will be Nokia Maps with offline maps and turn-by-turn navigation available in many countries around the world.
Microsoft calls Windows 8, "ready for business" with encryption and secure boot features. IT admins will be able to configure their own app deployment scenarios and strategies and enable device management tools that also work on Windows PC's thanks to the shared core.
Windows 8 has a new start screen with resizable tiles: double-wide, regular and small. Any tile can have one of these three sizes and they will update live.
Skype and VoIP Integration
Microsoft has stated that Skype is to be largely just an application that can be downloaded to take advantage of existing VoIP integration. Due to the integration VoIP applications can integrate into the phone dialer, People Hub and more.
Windows Phone 7.8 and No Upgrading from Mango
Microsoft intends to release a version 7.8 upgrade for existing Windows Phone 7 users. This update will bring some of the Windows Phone 8's user interface changes to existing devices, though many of these other new features will require new hardware, meaning existing 7.x users will have to purchase new Windows 8 Phone hardware.
The Tech-Stew Take Home
Windows Phone 7 was released in November of 2010, followed by the 7.5 "Mango" update just under a year ago. Now with Windows Phone 8 in 2012, Microsoft may have a chance to take a larger market share from its competitors such as iOS and Android. Microsoft's past mobile strategy has been successful in small areas, but for the large part hasn't had the big name support like its competition. This new hardware and feature set could prove beneficial, especially over the longer run as hardware requirements increase. Windows Phone 8 has the potential to attract new users to Windows Phone who might not have considered making the switch in the past.
But are these new features really that important? Some may view SD ability as attractive, such as purchasing an SD card to expand your memory for $10 versus paying $100+ more for a phone that has more capacity. But then again, how often are people upgrading their phones, as it may not matter over the longer haul for many. The other feature like NFC is a nice additional one, but not something required by the masses at least at this point.
The core sharing between Windows on PC and Windows Phone could be viewed as one of the biggest attractions with this new platform. Apps written for one platform can be converted to other more easily. However, this is more attractive to developers than consumers. Though one could argue if it attracts more developers then the amount of applications written for the platform could accelerate. Such an ability of the platform will prove useful to gaining ground over the longer haul, however.
The other features added such as multi-core ability, in particular dual core ability, are nice additions long overdue but only put it on par in some cases with other vendors. However, that said, being on par with other competitors is more than Microsoft has had under their belt in years gone by. We should know by the first part of 2013 if these changes help Microsoft gain some ground in the mobile market wars. I personally think they will gain ground in the coming months, but nothing that exceeds the competition, at least in the short term.
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