Windows Phone 7 is just about 15 months old and while it hasn’t taken a significant section of the market from Android or iOS, it is an impressive platform, and according to Joe Belifiore, head of Windows Phone for Microsoft, it’s only just the beginning.
Pocket Now has been given access to a video starring Belfiore which was intended for Microsoft’s partners at Nokia, in which he details the hardware and software improvements which are coming with Windows Phone 8, which is currently being referred to by the codename Apollo – and is rumoured to be coming in the last qiuarter of 2012.
So far Windows Phone handsets have been trailing their Android and iOS competitors when it comes to pretty much every aspect of hardware – with cameras the possible exception.
Well, WP8 is going to change all that and will let OEMs make their own choices rather than forcing then to follow specific strictures. According to Belfiore, WP8 will support multicore processors (no mention of how many), four different screen resolutions (no mention of pixel counts) and will also allow manufacturers to include microSD cards to expand local storage.
The Apollo update will also add NFC support with Belfiore placing specific emphasis on WP8's push into contactless payments. This will be controlled by either a secure element on the SIM or utilising hardware on the phone itself. One of the most exciting aspects of this however will be the tap-to-share element which will allow for transfer of data between the phone and a Windows 8 laptop/tablet/PC simply by tapping the phone on the device.
Windows 8 Integration
Microsoft are obviously looking to create an huge ecosystem which will include PCs, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Developers creating apps for the Windows 8 platform will be able to "reuse – by far – most of their code" when porting an app from desktop to phone, according to Belfiore. In the video he specifically mentions the kernel, networking stacks, security, and multimedia support as areas of heavy overlap.
Another issue which has plagued WP7 users is the reliance on Zune, and WP8 will get rid of this in favour of a syncing relationship with a dedicated companion application. Pocket Now believes this will mean Microsoft is bringing back a (presumably) richer version of ActiveSync after letting that program die out for the most part.
There are also other companion apps for Xbox and your SkyDrive account on Windows 8 which will play nice with your new Windows Phone 8 device. In the video, Belfiore gives the example of instantly having one's music collection available on a newly-purchased Windows Phone, without the need for a PC sync.
There are currently 50,000 Windows Phone apps in the Marketplace with some serious gaps still there. According to Belfiore this will be boosted to 100,000 by the time Apollo rolls out.
One of the major gaps in the Marketplace is Skype and considering Microsoft now owns the VoIP service this is a rather glaring omission. That will be rectified with Window Phone 8 however with the service baked into the new OS.
On a more general basis, Windows Phone 8 will add native code support, which will enable more powerful applications as well as easier porting of code from programs initially developed for iOS or Android.
A major problem for many smartphone owners these days, especially since unlimited data plans are so scarce, is keeping tabs on their data usage. A new DataSmart Live Tile will be added to Windows Phone 8 which will give users an instant breakdown of data consumption.
While this is a function other platforms already provide, DataSmart will go further by actively attempting to give Wi-Fi connections precedence, going so far as to automatically connect to carrier-owned WLANs when in range. The Local Scout feature of Bing Maps will also enable the real-time location of nearby hotspots.
With RIM faltering, it could be Microsoft’s chance to capture some of the enterprise market and to this end, Windows Phone 8 will include BitLocker encryption -- the same 128-bit, full-disk encryption found on Microsoft's most recent desktop platforms.
So overall, the Windows Phone 8 update is a pretty major advance and along with Windows 8, could see Microsoft gaining a major foothold in both the tablet and smartphone markets, which has so far eluded it.
Will Windows Phone 8 be the breakthrough Microsoft has been waiting for? Let us know in the comments below.
Source: Pocket Now