Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Windows Phone 8 announced

Microsoft today detailed the next version of Windows Phone Apollo, Windows Phone 8. No doubt the information passed down by Redmond today will have to be digested first, but it seems to have gone down well by my Twitter followers.

First up, the new Windows Phone 8 will run on the same shared Windows NT kernel and C and C++ libraries that will power Windows 8 and Windows RT. How exciting is that? Microsoft has effectively announced the first single platform running from desktop, tablets, laptops and smartphones. This means developers can easily reuse code to deploy their apps on all Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 platform. It also means better display support (Windows Phone 8 will support 480x800, 720x1280 and 768x1280 resolution) as well as multi-core processor support.

As Windows Phone 8 will have support for native DirectX 11 code, game devs can now release the same games on Windows 8 desktop, tablets and Windows Phone 8 smartphones. Windows Phone 7 runs better on a single core processor than an Android device with quad core processor, so it is certainly exciting to see multi-core processors supported with Windows Phone 8. Other changes includes the much requested expansion storage support, NFC payment and customisation. Yes, Windows Phone 8 will include a new homescreen with resizeable live tiles. I am not entirely too convinced by this as Windows Phone 7 has always been about offering UI consistency. Still, it is entirely optional and will at least appease those who has complained that live tiles are 'too large'.

Microsoft will also be deploying Nokia's mapping technology - effectively giving Nokia another cash flow in terms of licensing fees. A win-win for Nokia and Microsoft. In addition to that, Microsoft has also demo'ed the new Internet Explorer 10 with improved JavaScript and HTML5 performance. Skype and other third party VoIP will also be integrated into Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7 apps will also be recompiled by Microsoft to ensure they work on Windows Phone 8. Microsoft has also detailed background tasks and introduced 'real multitasking'. Finally, OTA updates will be delivered to the devices with updates promised for at least 18 months.

Now some bad news for current Windows Phone 7 owners, there will be no upgrade path for us lot. Current devices like the Nokia Lumia 800 will receive Windows Phone 7.8 update, bringing UI enhancement but you won't be getting anything like the new Windows NT kernel. It is certainly disappointing to see older devices get the cull, but it is probably necessary due to technology limitations. Other than that, Microsoft has reassured that Windows Phone 7.8 will feel and look just like Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft has slapped Google down this week, first with Surface and now Windows Phone 8. It is an exciting time to be a mobile technology fan, after years of putting up with sub-par UI. Don't get me wrong - Android is sleek, but the UI in both ICS and Honeycomb, are just a bloody mess. If executed properly, Microsoft will not only bring a mobile OS with brilliant UI and UX, but also the power and feature parity that mobile geeks craved. If this will give Google a kick in the arse to pay attention to the actual user interface of their Android platform, then better still. At the end of the day, us consumers will win.

Update: It appears that Microsoft has caved in and screwed up with the design of Windows Phone 8.

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