Last week was a busy week for Microsoft. First they announced that they were building their own Windows 8 tablet. Then later in the week they conducted a Windows Phone Summit, giving developer their first glimpse into the next version of Windows Phone.
After getting over the initial shock of the fact Microsoft has Kin’ed every WP7 device, I decided to look deep into what WP8 offers. Luckily my phone contract is about up around the time WP8 devices start to ship. I feel bad for those Lumia 900 owners; your phones were hip for 2 months before being rendered obsolete. If there is such a tight partnership with Nokia why didn’t Nokia build a device capable of running WP8? Now we know why those devices were practically given away. Microsoft is throwing WP7 owners a bone, the 7.8 upgrade, which gives you the new start screen functionality. So you can be reminded that you what you are missing out with the new phone OS, shaming you into upgrading. Of course Apple does this with the release of every iPhone, want Siri, upgrade to iPhone 4.5!
The Operating System
Windows Phone 8 will have the same core as Windows 8. Microsoft is starting to unify on one platform for all their environments. According to Microsoft this will allow for maximum code reuse across Windows 8 and WP8, with only minor alterations to the XAML to account for form factor. The shared core will other effects that will be detailed later in this post.
8 Platform Announcements
During the Summit Joe Belfiore showed of 8 platform enhancements that are coming. These enhancements are our first look at what is to come. According Microsoft they are not the end all be all of WP8.
1. The Hardware. Window Phone 8 will be running on devices with multi-core processors. There will also be new screen resolutions available in these new devices. So the new phone OS will be able to take advantage of the latest hardware available, enhancing the user experience on the device. Of course battery management with be crucial to ensuring that UX does not degrade. Another hardware announce was the ability to have removable SD cards, a feature that users have screaming for since the beginning.
2. IE 10. This is not really earth shattering considering the phone shares its core with Windows 8 an IE 10 is the browser on Windows 8. It will be nice to see the user experience of IE on the new phone.
3. Native Code. Finally developers will have the ability to write applications using native code using DirectX. Game developers rejoice. According to Microsoft they will now be able to write games for Windows 8 and have that game run on WP8. I can’t wait to see what people come up with.
4. Near Field Communication (NFC). WP8 will support NFC as does Windows 8. Now developers will be able to build applications that can take advantage of NFC. The possibilities are endless; it is up to the developer to build NFC into their applications. I have a few ideas already but I can’t wait to see what others come up with.
5. Wallet Hub. This is a new hub coming to the phone that will take digital wallets to the next level. You will be able to store credit and debit card information, loyalty and membership information, and event store digital coupons. Eventually there will be the ability to enable tap to pay through NFC.
6. Nokia Maps. In this next version of the phone Microsoft is replacing the Bing mapping software with Nokia’s mapping software. There will be offline maps and turn by turn direction provided as well. I have not had the pleasure of using Nokia’s maps before but from everything I heard, they are far superior to anything on the market.
7. Windows Phone for the Business. Microsoft has recently started to tout Windows 8 as the business tablet so it is understandable that they would do the same with WP8. Here are some of the features WP8 they are touting as business centric:
- Encryption (they haven’t called it BitLocker) and Secure Boot
- Office on the Phone (there in WP7)
- Remote device management
There are definitely some differentiators here. It will be interesting to see how the business community reacts to these features.
8. The new start screen. Microsoft has tweaked the start screen of WP7 for WP8 making it behave like the start screen for Windows 8. User will now have the ability to select from three different sized for their tiles. This allows users to emphasis what’s important to them. By the way, this is the only feature of WP8 that some WP7 users will get as a 7.8 release AFTER WP8 is released.
These are the 8 platform announcements that came out of the Summit. There are still a lot of questions left to be answered.
Microsoft has also announced that WP7 applications will run WP8 meaning that at launch there will be over 100,000 applications available for WP8 devices. Microsoft is handling the recompilation of WP7 applications so that they will run on WP8. But WP8 applications will not run on WP7 devices. So for the foreseeable future you will have to develop two versions of your applications. If you application don’t need any WP8 features then you may only need to create a WP7 app and have it appear on both devices. Of course Microsoft can shut down WP7 submissions at any time so beware.
There was no date mentioned for dev tools and GA. The tools are due out later this summer. Since WP7 apps will run on WP8 devices, they may not feel a rush to get them out. As for GA, it is rumored to be around the time of Windows 8 GA. That is rumored to be in October. Device makers are saying they will have device out later this year. Read into that as you will, my guess is October.
My Two Cents
After getting over the initial feeling of abandonment, I can see that there are new opportunities that weren’t available prior. I can’t wait to start building out interconnected business solutions that take advantage of both Windows 8 and WP8. These are exciting times we live in.