Microsoft's Windows Phone 8: There's good news and bad news

Microsoft's Windows Phone 8: There's good news and bad news

Summary: Microsoft is adding a slew of new features to its Windows Phone OS 8, but most are for new phone customers only.


Let's get the bad news out of the way first.

As I and others heard earlier this year, Microsoft's next Windows Phone operating system release, codenamed Apollo, is not going to be made available on any current Windows Phones. Not even second-generation Mango phones. Not on the new Lumia models from Nokia. None. Period.

(Breathe, Windows Phone faithful. You kind of knew this was coming.)

Microsoft execs stated this no-upgrade policy officially on June 20 at its Windows Phone Summit in San Francisco. The "official" reason this won't happen is the Apollo release includes too many of the new Apollo features are hardware-related. They'll require multicore Windows Phones, with built-in NFC support and the new Windows Phone core (which is based on Windows, not Windows Embedded Compact) to work properly.

Here's the semi-good news: Microsoft will make available an interim update to all existing Windows Phone users that will bring at least one of the Apollo features to their devices. In Windows Phone OS 7.8 -- which is coming some time after Apollo phones start shipping (Microsoft isn't saying when) -- Microsoft will deliver the new Windows Phone 8 user experience to all phone users.

This new user experience includes the addition of a third tile size. Now instead of just medium and large, users also will be able to put small tiles on their start screens. And that empty gutter along the right hand side of the Start Screen will be eliminated, allowing the tiles to cover the entire phone surface. The screen shot in this post is a prototype of this new UI that all Windows Phone users, whether running Apollo or Mango, will get.

Here's the truly good news -- and there's lots of it. Just about all of those previously leaked Apollo features are real and will be part of the platform. Multicore support, NFC/Wallet support, removable Micro SD card storage, encryption, secure boot -- they are all there. Windows Phone 8 will support two new screen resolutions— 1280x768 and 1280x720, in addition to the existing 480X800. (There will not be a fourth new screen resolution, even though Microsoft did test one.)

There are now (officially) 100,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Chase and PayPal apps are "on the way." Words with Friends and DrawSomething are both new to the store now. Microsoft also is promising Windows Phone 8 will support  50 languages (double the current number) and support 180 countries (triple the current number) with the Marketplace.

Even better: Microsoft is committing to make Windows Phone updates available over the air, as of Apollo. And Microsoft is taking steps to stop carriers from failing to deliver updates to users who want them. Starting with Windows Phone 8, every Windows Phone customer has access to every update for 18 months after the device launches, officials said today.

Microsoft officials still aren't commenting on some of the other leaked/rumored features, like the replacement for the Zune PC software client;  whether/how Mobile Internet Explorer 10 will include proxy support (like Amazon's Silk); or data-metering support. They also are still not talking about the delivery date for the product, though rumors of new Windows Phone 8 devices by Q4 seem like they are still on the money.

Topics: SMBs, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Good news, actually...

    Because this means I'll be able to buy a Lumia 900 for much less! :-)
    Tony Barbarella
    • Exactly

      There are a whole lot of Lumia owners (myself included) who have been thrilled with their phones and will be looking to sell them in the next few months. Anyone who buys them is getting a great phone at a bargain price, and then we all get to buy new wp8 to go nicely with our new Microsoft Surfaces
      • loosers

        and masochists
        Oh yeah, I will sell my 2 month old brick for a few dozens of dollars! & will buy a new one, thanks Microsoft!
    • Cheap Lumia 900

      Want to buy my dead-end Lumia 900?
      • dead end phone? or dead end contract?

        I bet your phone contract will expire before Microsoft stops delivering updates. So, if you keep your phone another two years, then yes it is dead end, but I bet you are eligible for a phone upgrade way before then.
      • WP7.8 is more than adequate for existing WP7 owners

        Did people not actually read the article or follow any of the coverage?

        WP7.8 will give existing WP7 owners pretty much everything they need from WP8 that their existing phone hardware will allow. If I own an iPhone4 I can't access or use a lot of features in iOS6 because my phone doesn't have the hardware/features to support it.

        So, nobody is 'losing out' here. What is the point of giving software to a phone which doesn't have the hardware or hardware features to support it.

        Proof is in the pudding but from what I've read so far WP7.8 will give existing WP7 owners everything they need from WP8.
    • You're right

      Nokia paid me $50 to get the Lumia 900. It works fine and I'll get a few good years out of it and move up to whatever's next. Been doing this for years with PCs, why would smartphones be any different.
    • Native Code


      No native code support means that new apps from top tier developers (not hobbyists) probably won't come to WP7 - that's a huge dead-end for existing owners.
      • This is the key question and should abosulely not have been down rated

        As an HTC HD2 owner, I felt somewhat shafted when Microsoft announced that the device would not receive the WP7 upgrade in spite of the fact that from a hardware perspective it was more than capable of running the OS. Yes, some physical buttons would need to be repurposed, but the software would work. As has been proved by the raft of WP7 ROMS available for the HD2.

        Now, 7 months after upgrading to the Lumia 800, I'm being told that I face another year of potentially being unable to access the latest and greatest apps. More specifically, I'll be seriously annoyed if things like a SIP client (no, a real SIP client, not Skype or even Lync, I want to integrate with a Mitel VOIP platform) and a Citrix receiver are released for WP8 but not available for WP7.8.

        I have good will for Microsoft and their products. I am an evangelist for them, and I have been for the last 2 years when the world and his wife have been raving about iOS, Android, Mac OS X etc, even when those platforms have supported the features that were missing from WP7 and previously when the overall experience just ran rings around WM6.5. Another slap in the face from Microsoft would honestly be the last straw for me. Oh well. Here's hoping they pull a rabbit out of the hat.
      • Sheesh!

        We all bought our phones knowing they have no native code support, and the apps have been pretty solid nonetheless. If (and I really mean if) there's a flood of impressive native apps, it will take 6-12 months for that to happen, after WP8 is released maybe 4-8 months from now. By that time, most 2-yr contracts will be almost up. In the meantime, developers will continue to lean towards targeting WP7 because that's where most of the users are, and the apps will work on both platforms.
  • Excited about C/C++ but only if...

    ... I can invoke C/C++ libraries from my C# code. I don't want to write a whole app in C++. I just want to be able to call into powerful libraries like OpenCV (EmguCV). To write an entire app in C++ would be tedious and would waste a lot of code that I already have written in C#.
    • C# and C++ Mixed

      Yep... you can call C++ libraries from C#. You can also call C# libraries from C++.

      And if your a masochist you can develop apps in JavaScript+HTML. ;)
      • HAHAHAHA

        i hate masochist like this!
        Anna Paula Graboski
      • Nitpicking...

        .. but there is no such thing as C# libraries. C# is a language that can access, as of Windows 8, multiple SDKs - both the WinRT and the .NET Frameworks.

        C++ can also, and has always been able to, write against the .Net framework SDK, and can also be used against WinRT, in addition to the Win32/MFC/whatever APIs of today.
      • C# libraries

        Of course there are C# libraries - I build C# dlls all the time
      • C# Libraries

        Well, technically they are .Net libraries written in C#. Not quite the same thing as being a "C# Library".
        Harry S.
  • What about WP 7.8?

    It sounds like WP 7.8 is exactly what you are asking for. It sounds like it will include the new features that do not require new hardware.
    • Lower tier phones

      Also Nokia is bent on introducing even lower tier phones compared to the ones it has now, and will probably need a version of WP with the Windows CE core. I expect therefore that there will be a divergence in the WP OS, going both upwards and downwards, spanning a wider range of devices. They will likely all have the same basic WP8 user experience, but devices will vary in capability.
      P. Douglas
    • Wrong

      7.8 includes ONE new feature - a third start window tile size. Big deal.
    • Networking?

      Is there a new networking support in 7.8? I do not care about tile size or native code but support for VPN would be great.