Microsoft officially unveils Windows Phone 8

20 June, 2012

Microsoft held a press event today to give us a "sneak peek of the future of Windows Phone". Terry Myerson, VP of Windows Phone, took the stage and bragged that seven of the top nine phones in Amazon's marketplace are Windows Phone handsets.

But that's the past - Joe Belfiore took over to preview Windows Phone 8. One huge change in WP8 is the shared core. This means that Windows Phone 8 shares the kernel, drivers, security, graphics and more with Windows 8. With it, devs for either OS can easily port their work to the other platform.

Windows Phone 8 finally brings support for multi-core processors thanks to the shared kernel. For this fall, Microsoft will focus on dual-cores, but up to 64-core CPUs are a go in the future.

Next up, higher resolutions will be supported - WVGA is joined by 720p (1280 x 720) and WXGA (1280 x 768). All existing Windows Phone 7.5 apps will work without modification on the new OS regardless of the resolution.

Removable storage is another highly requested feature that will be debut on WP8.

Belfiore also showcased a game, Marble Maze, on a Windows 8 tablet that runs with minimal modifications on a Windows Phone 8 handset.

Windows Phone 8 will launch with Internet Explorer 10 preinstalled, which borrows a lot of pieces from its desktop counterpart. JavaScript performance is improved 4 times and sites that work on the desktop browser are said to work on the phone too.

IE10 on the phone will share in some security features of the desktop browser - like warning users of potentially malicious sites. The HTML5 support is improved both in terms of features and speed.

Windows Phone 8 also makes the jump to native code apps written in C and C++ - which allows both improved performance and easier porting of stuff like games from Windows 8 RT to Windows Phone 8.

The new Microsoft mobile OS will also offer full native support for NFC and it will even allow 3rd party apps to make use of it. A cool use for NFC is Tap-Send, which can be found in the share menu. It allows you to just tap two WP8 or Windows 8 devices to transfer a file between them.

The NFC support will also allow your phone to eventually replace a lot of things that you now need to keep in your wallet (all WP8 phones will have the NFC hub).

Microsoft bragged that its NFC wallet is better than Google's because the security is handled by the SIM card instead of the phone itself. The Wallet will debut on Orange France.

Wallet features Deals (digital discount coupon codes), which have Local Scout integration, so you can look for deals nearby. Deals can be found through web searches, handed out or acquired by third party apps and they can easily be shared with your contacts.

Wallet also handles buying apps and in-app purchases (which are new too). Wallet stores your credit cards and will ask you which one you want to use for each payment. You can set it up to ask for a PIN code, which will prevent other people from buying stuff from your phone.

The next major change introduced by Windows Phone 8 is Nokia's mapping services, which will replace Bing. The map data can be stored on the phone, so you can use it offline. All third party apps can use Nokia's services, even when you don't have a working data connection.

Windows Phone 8 hope to appeal to corporate users as well with secure boot and BitLocker encryption. It will allow administrators to manage devices remotely and push apps to them, which will really make supporting company phones a whole lot easier.

The other business-oriented feature that was showcased today is the Company Hub. It will allow a company to highlight apps specific to the company itself and make them easily accessible to its employees.

The next new platform feature is the updated start screen. It features new Live tile sizes - both smaller and bigger tiles are now available. And better still, the user gets to change the size of each live tile. WP7.5 tiles are compatible with the new Windows Phone release without requiring any modification and so are the WP7.5 apps.

Changing the size of a tile will change the functionality it offers. There will be more colors to choose from for the live tiles too.

Under the cover Windows Phone 8 comes with improved multitasking, which should lead to better performance of IM apps. For starters, Skype is much better integrated - e.g. the Skype call looks just like a regular phone call. Other VoIP services can make use of the new APIs, too, achieving similar integration.

The multitasking-related improvements go on - location-based apps (like SatNav and so on) can now work in the background even if you leave them to check a message, for example. And yes, it was about time they fixed that.

Windows Phone 8 will bring more competition to Apple's Siri. Not only does it come with improved system-wide virtual assistant, but third party developers will also be able to hitch a ride on Microsoft's speech platform and add voice commands to their apps. In its own words, Microsoft wants you to have a dialogue with each app.

Upcoming Windows Phone 8 devices will be built by Nokia, Samsung, HTC and Huawei on Qualcomm chipsets. The big name missing from this list is LG as the Koreans probably chose to focus on Android.

Unlike WP7, WP8 updates will be distributed over the air. Microsoft promises support for every WP8 device for at least 18 months.

Microsoft concluded the presentation by bragging about the extremely wide reach of Windows Phone 8. The platform's Marketplace will be available in 180 countries and the whole interface will be translated to 50 different languages. Right-to-left writing support is also enabled.

The official launch of Windows Phone 8 is scheduled for this fall, but that's as specific info as we got. Things should become a little clearer in the following weeks.


Reader comments

  • Snappie
  • 19 Aug 2012
  • fXu

I like a QWERTY keyboard, I hate IE with a passion and I want Nokia/OVI maps because it was the best all round the world for me. So no, I don't want a dead feeling touch screen and Windows, I want a proper Nokia end of the year with my upgrade. ...

  • Dan
  • 15 Aug 2012
  • LaC

BT is common, why mention him ?

  • rynn
  • 14 Aug 2012
  • uC3

Most impressive: Free Navigation on ALL!

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