Clouds, Cores and Compatibility… That seems to be the direction that Microsoft is taking their new “8” platforms in. The Windows Phone 8 Summit today in California highlighted the changes to the Windows Phone line that will bring the growing OS in to the year 2013. While many of the highlighted features are already prevalent in the competition, there are some new tricks that this old dog has pulled out that may excite enough people to run, not walk to their carrier stores this fall/winter to pick up a brand new Windows Phone 8 device.
First off, let’s address the fact that it was not made clear that existing hardware would or wouldn’t accept an update to Windows Phone 8. From the talk of “shared cores” and the fact that they mentioned that developers should be able to “move their apps easily” it probably means no upgrades, but let’s not judge that just yet. An official word should be coming closer to release date. Now with that out of the way, lets get to the new stuff.
Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 will be sharing the majority of their information from the kernel to drivers to networking standards. This means great news for hardware makers. Now, a vendor like Samsung can manufacture a phone, slate and laptop with the same components and drivers. This will lower costs and increase compatibility over the range of devices for all suppliers.
Getting down to the future and the way the device works, Microsoft has added some support features that will increase the power of the devices running WP8. Multi-core chipset support is a big one. Video support up to 720p in also coming. Perhaps the largest cheer of the day was from the external memory support, in the form of removable MicroSD cards. There will also be full NFC support for their Fast Cards wallet system and a full version of Internet Explorer 10 preloaded into Windows Phone 8.
The other cheer of the day was the modified Start Menu. The new menu allows for tile resizing, which has been one of the criticisms of WP7. The new layout allows the existing tiles to be divided up in to 1/4 size tiles, single tiles or double tiles. This allows a larger customization of your home screen, without sacrificing live tiles.
The graphics chipsets will be based on Direct X technology. Gaming from PC/Xbox/Slate/Phone will be universal with only minor code changes to alter the program for the different screens and available controls.
The business user will be happy to see built in business card recognition, more Office 2010 compatibility and tap & send to other devices. This means sharing contacts, photos, documents and many other files can be done with just a simple tap. Again, nothing that hasn’t been seen before, but certainly a welcome addition to the Windows Phone core.
Overall, there are a ton of new core features that will be revealed over the next 3-5 months until Windows Phone 8 is released. While we will wait to see what the latest and greatest brings, as well as what the competition brings in the same time frame, the moves look great so far.
Updated: Microsoft has released in their Windows Phone Blog that none of the current generation Windows Phones will be updated to Windows Phone 8. This is bad news for those with that Lumia purchased 15 days ago, but Windows Phone 7.5 is nothing to scoff at. They cite the different hardware requirements and components as the key issues with updating. More information can be found here. To help appease those new Titan II/Focus S/Lumia 900 owners though, Microsoft will be bringing some of the features of Windows Phone 8 to older devices in the form of an update billed as Windows Phone 7.8.