Microsoft hasn’t even launched Windows Phone Tango (possibly bearing the version number 7.6) yet, and here we have two gigantic leaks regarding the next ‘big’ release – Windows Phone 8 (which we’ve known so far by its codename, Apollo). The leaks come from PocketNow and WinSuperSite, and while the two sources agree on most of the information, there are some interesting differing points which we’ll touch upon.
Like the name suggests, WP8 will have many things in common with the desktop version of Windows 8. As previously rumored, the WP8 kernel won’t be based on WinCE, but Windows 8. Alongside the kernel, the security model, network, video and graphics technologies will all be coming from the desktop edition of the OS.
So what are the main new features of Windows Phone 8?
- support for multi-core processors
- support for 4 screen resolutions (up from one at the moment)
- NFC, including mobile payments and tap-to-share capabilities
- microSD expansion cards
- Windows 8 integration will allow developers to reuse most of their code when porting an app from the desktop to the Phone OS (although what isn’t clearly stated is if that refers to the Windows Phone-like apps in Windows 8, or ‘true’ desktop apps like the ones we use today on Windows 7)
- no more Zune desktop client – it will be replaced by a dedicated app for Windows Phone desktop sync
- Xbox Companion app will have a partner app on Windows 8
- Skydrive will enable seamless sharing between devices (think iCloud)
- 100,000 apps in the Marketplace by the time WP8 launches
- native code support for apps
- app-to-app communication (currently all apps are sandboxed)
- the camera will be based on lens apps – Microsoft providing a basic camera UI that can be skinned by manufacturers or overlaid with viewfinders from third-party apps
- DataSmart will aim to reduce mobile data usage – offering breakdown of data used, including in a live tile of its own, and actively attempting to give Wi-Fi connectivity precedence, automatically connecting to carrier-owned Wi-Fi networks when in range (which sounds like the only actually new thing here). The Local Scout feature inside Bing Maps will help with real-time location of nearby hotspots
- Internet Explorer 10 – again a similar version to its desktop cousin. Interestingly, it may even use a proxy for browsing, a la Opera Mini, reducing the amount of data required to view websites by a claimed 30%
- native BitLocker encryption – 128-bit full hardware accelerated disk encryption and always-on secure boot capabilities
- ‘line-of-business’ apps will be supported – these will be specific, proprietary apps deployed behind company firewalls
We have a few things that don’t quite add up though. Both sources quote the 100,000 number for prospective apps in the Marketplace when Windows Phone 8 launches. And that very well may happen. But will they all be compatible with WP8? Paul Thurrott of WinSuperSite says they will, PocketNow doesn’t mention this.
But what about updates to Windows Phone 8? Will existing Windows Phones all receive the update? Both sources have stayed intriguingly mum on this. Past rumors (started by Eldar Murtazin) said that in fact currently selling Windows Phones will not get updated to WP8. That would be very bad for Microsoft, even if there aren’t really that many WP devices out there right now. It would be bad because it would create the perception of fragmentation, which is a word that has gotten very negative connotations after being thrown at Android every day for the past few months.
Finally, there’s the Skype issue. PocketNow says that Skype will hook directly into the new operating system, allowing Skype calls to behave almost exactly like ‘real’ non-VoIP calls (remember Maemo?).
On the other hand, Paul Thurrott claims that Skype will still be a separate app (but better than now), and it won’t be properly integrated into the OS. It will therefore still be optional.
So it remains to be seen which way Microsoft will take the Skype client for Windows Phone. Skype now being owned by Microsoft you’d expect some tight integration to be in there, but on the other hand that would make carriers across the world quite angry we assume. So it’s a tough balancing act that Microsoft needs to perform in this regard.
Windows Phone 8 will probably arrive in shipping phones in the fourth quarter of this year (or maybe a little earlier, if Microsoft wants to surprise us) so there’s still plenty of time for us to find out all the details that were left out of these leaks. What’s certain is that this will be the biggest update to Windows Phone yet, and it may be the one that has the most impact. With Windows Phone 8, Microsoft will finally have a grown up smartphone operating system on the market (save for actual multitasking, perhaps). So hopefully it will manage to do a lot better, sales-wise, than its predecessors.
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